Monday, September 20, 2021

Xavien Howard: Miami’s Lose-Lose Situation

There has been so much written, reported and tweeted about the Miami Dolphins and their Xavien Howard situation in the last few weeks. As we know, Howard is one of the best paid players on the Miami roster, he is one of the best paid players in his position in the league and he is also one of the most productive cornerbacks in the entire league. 

So a productive player who is well paid, surely all is well. Apart from the fact it isn’t. Earlier this offseason Xavien Howard enlisted the help of a new agent, and in doing so started to form the clouds from where this storm has come from. Howard, just 1 year into his new deal and with four remaining, wants a pay rise. Coming off a massive season with double figure interceptions, he wants more money and this is where the problem lies. 

On the face of it he has requested more money, and that has led to the perception that this is ABOUT money. I suppose it is, when all is said and done, but more than that it is about what that money represents, RESPECT. 

Howard signed his deal which made him the then highest paid cornerback in the league, a true token of how much the franchise respect him and value him. But then in the coming months they signed Byron Jones, the top Free Agent cornerback and paid him more than Howard. In Howard’s eyes, suddenly, there was a player they respected more, valued more. 

The Dolphins then went into the draft with three first round picks, they used their first two on a QB and a LT before using their third on Noah Igbinoghene… a cornerback. Now in Howard’s eyes they have invested more money in Byron Jones and a first round draft pick in Igbinoghene. After being sold the idea that he was their prized asset, now there are two other people in his position with high value on their shoulders. 

So here we are with Howard feeling like the third wheel yet performing like the top dog. He is after the money that proves this. 

So how could this play out, well simple really, he either stays, or he goes. Both options however, I believe are now losing scenarios for Miami, it’s now about how small they can make that loss. 

 OPTION 1: XAVIEN HOWARD STAYS 

Before I get into this, lets not forget that Xavien Howard’s number 1 option is to REMAIN a Miami Dolphin. He is not critical of the team, the coaches or the project. Both he and his agent are seeking a contract not seeking a trade. The idea of a trade is only there if Miami decides they don’t want to meet Howard’s demands. 

So we do have a way where Xavien Howard stays a Miami Dolphin, because he wants to stay a Miami Dolphin and in fact he wants to be the best Miami Dolphin in production but also in pay packet. 

So if he stays, how do we lose? Well because for a lot of fans the damage has already been done. We have the best producing cornerback in the league, who was 3rd place in Defensive Player of the Year, so therefore the third best defensive player in the league. Yet due to this problem, some people are willing, and hoping, he ends up traded. So to say the damage is done is one thing as the damage must be pretty severe to be willing to give up on such a player. If he was to say, would these fans every truly be able to forgive him? I am not convinced. 

But also, a scenario where he stays is one where Miami pay him more, or at least restructure his contract more favourably for him. That would do two things. Firstly, we lose face and secondly we set a very dangerous precedent. We lose face because so far we have shown no interest in sorting out this situation with him and to completely back track on this could be perceived as weakness. 

However perhaps more worryingly, it sets the precedent that a player can hold the team to ransom after a good season, regardless the length and value of his current deal. After we cave once, it is hard to not pay out again and again. Then imagine that he never performs as well as he did last year. 

There is of course the argument where he stays on his current deal and just sits out the season. Some tweets of “he has four years left, let him rot them out” are banded about from time to time. But this just seems so illogical from all angles. What does anyone gain by this happening, apart from the stubbornness to say he didn’t get what he wanted from us.

Firstly, he would get fined through the nose, and therefore earn a lot less cash. Secondly we would lose production of the top CB out there, we would lose trade value in him, and we would gain a reputation of a franchise unwilling to find a solution for their players. I’m sorry to those who want to hold him and keep him benched, but NOBODY wins that scenario. 

All this would hopefully seem less significant if Howard continues his incredible production and it would also be a lot easier to stomach if it is a restructure of the money within his current deal with a small raise, rather than a whole new deal. But even with keeping one of the best defensive players in the league, because of how things have gone, this would be less than ideal.

OPTION 2: HOWARD IS TRADED

So if we don’t want to fall into the negatives of what it would take for him to stay, that means he has to leave. 

That means our loss is obvious. We lose our premier productive player on the defensive side of the ball. Xavien Howard had more interceptions last season than any of our players had sacks. Drink that in. I understand we would be trading a problem away, but that problem takes a whole lot of talent and production away with him. 

I also return to the fact he doesn’t want to be traded. That is a move he’d make only if there is no potential solution to stay in Miami. There is a perception that is being created that he is not a “team first guy”. Some even add “He’s not a team first guy like Flores likes”. But other than looking out for his own contract, has he really shown he isn’t team first? 

I agree, I feel he is being very ambitious and at this moment is making his finances a priority, but that doesn’t mean he is disregarding the team. He didn’t do this during the season, he didn’t do this during the draft process and provide distractions at these moments. He has continuously worked with youngster Noah Igbinoghene on improving his game, a young man who is a byproduct of one of the moves which led to this situation. Yet instead of holding it against him, he has worked with him 

and kept his battle between agent and front office. So yes, I agree, he hasn’t showered himself in glory with this move and there is a sense of ungratefulness having had the team stand by him, but to say he has turned his back on the team feels like an emotional fan reaction rather than clear, considered thinking. 

That said, it would probably be in Miami’s interest to trade him while his value is high if there is any risk of a long term hold out. Right now his value would be at his highest and any hold out only sends that downwards, so while losing him would be the obvious ‘loss’ in this scenario, we can mitigate that by getting good value back for him. 

Bidding seems to be agreed as starting at a 1st round pick + something else. It will be that ‘something else’ that could turn this round for Miami. It could be more picks, and as a franchise now accustomed to picking twice in the first round of drafts it would be understandable to see the temptation. That said, we are done rebuilding, its now about winning, so lets not gain more picks, go and get starter standard players. 

The name thrown about a lot is Alvin Kamara after it was linked that New Orleans would be a strong suiter for Howard. But as much as I would love it, I really don’t see the Saints going anywhere near that deal. After losing Drew Brees, do you trade away Kamara too, I don’t think so. That seems very much a fan desire rumour which has escalated for some to think its now plausible.

If running back is a consideration, I think Kareem Hunt plus a pick is a much more realistic option. I don’t think its as good, but I do believe it is more likely given that the Browns have the cap space to take Howard, they are building a frightening secondary of their own and have Nick Chubb in their RB room to cushion the loss of Kareem Hunt. Whereas Miami get a proven, explosive runner, who can also catch the ball and with age on his side. 

But I would also be surprised if Offensive Line was a targeted position. While there is a lot of drafted talent on our line and a lot of investment of draft capital to boot, there is no real leader, sure fire hit, or settled participant in that line. With Austin Jackson needing a step up to live up to Round 1 billing, Solomon Kindley needing to answer the questions he left open, Robert Hunt switching positions, Liam Eichenberg coming in as a rookie and the centre position on its latest revolving door of 1 year deals, a top quality veteran may well be an option for Miami if they go down the trade route. 

So it is obvious what we lose if Howard is traded, but that can be softened by the value we get in return for him. But even then, getting future picks and offensive players, we still have the huge Howard shaped hole on defense, leaving Jones and Igbinoghene with some incredibly big shoes to fill. 

VERDICT

If it was my call, I would try and work out a restructure. You don’t give him a completely new deal, that sets the precedent, so avoid that if you can. But losing him when we are trying to conquer Josh Allen seems close to insanity, so for me, you do your best to work out a restructure that works for all parties. 

What I think will happen, I fear more of a Mexican stand off, which will eventually lead to a trade with the front office getting twitchy about getting back value on their investment. I feel that eventually we will be talking about what value we got for Xavien Howard and how ready Noah Igbinoghene is to take his roster spot.

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