Inside the Xavien Howard deal

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If you’ve paid any attention to how new contracts get reported, you know the routine by now. The initial reports often are inflated, with deliberately vague terms (like total guarantee instead of full guarantee at signing) and a new-money analysis (which always makes the deal seem better than it is). Then, inevitably, the real numbers emerge.

Here are the real numbers of the new contract signed by Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard. Reported as a five-year, $76.5 million deal with $46 million guaranteed, it’s actually a six-year, $76.53 million deal, with the specific terms set forth below.

1. Signing bonus: $7 million.

2. 2019 roster bonus: $7 million, fully guaranteed.

3. 2019 base salary: $1,285,641, fully guaranteed.

4. 2020 base salary: $11.9 million, fully guaranteed.

5. 2021 base salary: $12.075 million, guaranteed for injury at signing, and fully guaranteed as of the fifth day of the 2020 league year.

6. 2022 base salary: $12.375 million, $6.775 million of which is guaranteed for injury only.

7. 2023 base salary: $11.4 million.

8. 2024 base salary: $11.65 million.

9. Workout bonuses: $25,000 in 2020, $25,000 in 2021, $100,000 in 2022, $100,000 in 2023, and $100,000 in 2024.

10. Per-game roster bonuses: $31,250 per game from 2022 through 2024, for a maximum of $500,000 per year.

Now, some analysis.

First, the base salary of the extension isn’t $76.5 million. It’s $75.25 million, if he earns the full amount of the workout bonuses and per-game roster bonuses. That’s a new-money average of $15.05 million, beating Josh Norman‘s prior high-water mark by only $50,000 per year, three years after Norman’s deal was signed. (And, as previously mentioned, Norman’s five-year deal was worth $15 million from signing; Howard’s deal was worth $12.75 million per year at signing.)

Second, the full guarantee at signing is $27.18 million. The practical guarantee at signing is $39.26 million, since the 2021 base salary becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2020 league year. (The Dolphins can avoid owing Howard $39.26 million only but cutting him after one year, at a price of $27.18 million.)

Third, the total guarantee is indeed $46 million, but the final $6.775 million in injury guarantees never convert to a full guarantee.

Fourth, the cash flow is as follows: $15.285 million through 2019, $27.214 million through 2020, and $39.31 million through 2021. It becomes a year-to-year deal from 2022 through 2024, at a time when the salary cap (and the cornerback market) should be much higher than it currently is.

Again, that’s the biggest problem with the contract. The money after 2021 isn’t guaranteed, beyond $6.775 million guaranteed for injury only in 2022. The Dolphins will control Howard’s rights on a year-to-year basis at that point, with the ability to pay him what surely will be below-market amounts in the final three years if he’s playing well, and the ability to cut him loose if he isn’t playing well.

It’s not a bad deal per se, but it’s not the kind of deal that should have been characterized the way that it was by the initial reports regarding its value. Howard has opted to accept a sizable bird in the hand, but if he had been willing to carry for one more season the risk of injury and ineffectiveness, he would have been able to use the franchise tag (currently, $16 million for cornerbacks) as the starting point for a much more lucrative deal than the contract he accepted.

Ultimately, he chose not to reject what amounts to life-changing money. And that’s fine. But to take his willingness to accept what ultimately is, for Howard, a “safe” compromise doesn’t justify selling it as the best contract any cornerback has ever signed.

It isn’t. Nine months from now, with the leverage that comes from the franchise tag, it could have been.

14 responses to “Inside the Xavien Howard deal

  1. Or he might have gotten hurt and missed out on $30 million. Not everyone is a QB, Howard actually runs a sizable injury risk and has a history. He was smart to take this deal now.

    Sure if he bet on himself and won he might have made $20 million more. But what is the marginal utility of millions 31 – 50, after you have the first 30?

  2. No offense (and I mean no offense) to Mr. Howard but this deal gives him way more that what he potentially could have earned in the open market. Xavian has been inconsistent in coverage and has been highly penalized throughout his career. He was able to cash out, largely because he plays a premium position and had fantastic season (with respect to takeaways). I still like the signing. Xavian has a great opportunity to develop under defensive minded HC Flores and earn the latter half of his contract the old fashioned way, by working for it.

  3. This is a dude who, while good, has consistency and injury issues. A bad 2019 season could have easily tanked his chances for that “stick it to the man” payday you are promoting again. JPP got hurt and was not even playing football and you still think this guy and EVERY OTHER good player should just roll the dice? That money is “never have to work again” money. Players should jump on that every single time they can. Going from roughly 5 million career earnings to a guaranteed 5 or 8 times that amount should be a no brainer. Your argument boils down to a few million difference in total but there is virtually no difference in your life between 35 million and 40 million other than the bragging right you get by pointing at a piece of paper.

  4. For a player with his history it was a good contract.
    He will be 29 at the start of the seasons where the contract becomes year to year. So even if the CBA increases there is no reason to assume a CB gets better with age.
    Most likely he gets cut after 3 years or possibly plays one more year on that contract.

    He should be ecstatic.
    Lots of guaranteed money and worse case scenario he could have earned 10MM more.

  5. I love how people say that this was his chance at “life changing money” as if the millions he’s made his first three years isn’t already that. Not saying at all that players shouldn’t go for money, that’s totally fine. Just funny that people don’t grasp that even minimum salary guys make more in a year than the average person makes in 10. One year of being in the NFL is life changing money if you invest it wisely.

  6. $76.5M with $46M guaranteed. Wow. I can’t wait for a few years when he’s complaining about being underpaid.

    The amount of money going to these professional athletes is beyond belief.

  7. Howard is one of the best CB’s in the NFL. The money for contracts is just plain stupid at this point. The Dolphins were smart to lock him in and did the “best they could” to make him happy and hedge against long term cap hits like with Mike Wallace, Suh and Tannehill. Long after these guys are gone they are on the hook for dead money. Franchise Corners are just as hard to find as QBs. Good move. The only ones saying otherwise do not understand the current state of affairs with contract prices or are the same that would be complaining that Miami never signs their own talent.

  8. “It’s not a bad deal per se, but it’s not the kind of deal that should have been characterized the way that it was by the initial reports regarding its value.”

    Kind of sounds like what one of our rival teams would be whining about.

    Because this is a common thing every season, why you making it sound like the dolphins are pulling the wool over peoples eyes?

  9. ” The Dolphins will control Howard’s rights on a year-to-year basis at that point”

    I bety howard just didn’t want to get tagged the next couple of years. This was a great contract for him

  10. jluckow, unless you consider “Being an NFL player” the kind of “life change” you’re talking about, the ~$5M he’s earned so far is not remotely close to “I’ll never have to work again” money.

    NFL players have to spend lots of money just to be able to stay in the league. It’s not like a person making $50k whose fitness regimen consists of making a sack lunch of chicken breasts and driving down to In-Shape.

  11. “The money after 2021 isn’t guaranteed, beyond $6.775 million guaranteed for injury only in 2022.”

    Again, why is this considered such a bad thing? Guaranteed money only matters when a player isn’t worth the salary called for in the contract. If he plays well, he’s on the team and gets every penny.

  12. This contract is a good deal for both Howard and the Dolphins. Howard gets paid now and can get out in one of his prime years and the Dolphins can get out after just 3 years and can still keep him for at least 2 more years with the franchise tag.
    Either way if Howard is still performing after 3 years both parties will get what they want.

  13. Dolphins won this deal. He is making a very reasonable amount of money and since his contract is basically flat instead of backloaded, well see him arguing for more money by the end of this deal.

  14. “Howard gets paid now and can get out in one of his prime years and the Dolphins can get out after just 3 years and can still keep him for at least 2 more years with the franchise tag.”

    Wouldn’t count on the franchise tag, at least in its current form, after the new cba next year…

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