We have known for some time that Xavien Howard was unhappy with his contract in Miami and tonight he went public with his thoughts.
I’ve written about Howard’s contract before and where things may have gone sideways for him, but this was always going to be a very difficult spot for him given that he signed his contract only two years ago and was injured in the first year of the contract.
From the sound of Howard’s statement he did acknowledge that he was not going to get a raise nor looking for one. He indicated looking for more guarantees that helped Miami with the salary cap and that Miami turned that down. Howard essentially has no protection in his contract after this year. He has a partial injury guarantee for 2022 and next to no dead money at any stage of his contract due to receiving such a small signing bonus.
My guess is that Howard’s side looked for the Dolphins to convert $11 million of his 2021 salary to a bonus this year and likely a partial conversion of next year’s salary to be paid as a 2021 bonus. Doing that would have lowered his cap number this year and next year and thus have been “cap friendly” for the Dolphins while at the same time improving the cash flows and potential dead money in the contract which does offer some protection for a player.
Such moves are kind of a kicking of the can from the player side. The hope is often to get to redo the deals each year continuously borrowing from the future to the present while at the same time getting closer to the end of their contracts when they have a better chance of renegotiating to a better deal.
The fact that Miami said no is not surprising for a few reasons. One is simply that the contract is too new and they are dealing with a situation where the team paid for 5 games one year and then great play the following year. That is not really an optimal time for a team as it sets the stage for every player who has a banner year to ask for more money. Teams also often do not like suggestions on managing their own salary cap and I’m sure that the statement here is not well received in that regard.
The second thing is that Miami may not view Howard as part of the long term. As crazy as that is to say it was not long ago that Miami completely gutted the team to get their salary cap in order and amass draft picks. Most of their success is going to be based on the play of Tua Tagovailoa and how much of a step forward he takes in 2021 will probably give Miami a strong idea whether he is the guy or whether they need to plan for another draft pick.
If the QB is not successful I don’t see any scenario where Miami will value a pair of $15M+ cornerbacks when they could turn those players into draft picks. Converting salary to a bonus, especially future salary, doesn’t put Miami in an optimal position with their salary cap. Staying the course is probably best for the team this year and then they can see next year what is in the best interest for the team.
I don’t think Miami will trade Howard this year. They have a lot invested in this season and need him to put the best team on the field this season. I would guess that Miami would need to be offered a young cornerback and a 1st round pick to think about trading him. Never say never but it is rare that the players in the NFL are able to force trades like this.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.