Dolphins coach Brian Flores describes the contract problem with cornerback Xavien Howard as a “unique situation.” Flores is absolutely right in his assessment of it.
The Dolphins signed Howard two years ago to a five-year extension at a time when he had one year left on his rookie deal, putting him under contract for six total years. Hyped as a record deal paying Howard $15.05 million per year in new money, the six-year contract actually had a value of $12.75 million per year at signing.
Howard was due to make $1.285 million in 2019, and the franchise tag for 2020 was $16.338 million, a total two-year payout of $17.623 million. Under his new contract, Howard received $20.185 million in 2019 and 2020. For the extra $2.562 million, Howard committed for four more years at a remaining payout of $49.3 million, an average of $12.325 million per year.
So Howard, a defensive player of the year candidate in 2020 who led the league with 10 interceptions, understandably wants more.
“X is a little bit of a unique situation,” Flores said on Tuesday. “He was extended and now we’re talking about a potential renegotiation after one year. Those turn into longer conversations. We understand that. We’ve obviously had a lot of talks and conversations about that and we’ll continue to have those and keep them internal, but it’s a very unique conversation.”
Complicating the conversation is the fact that the Dolphins have since signed cornerback Byron Jones to a five-year, $82.5 million contract, with an average of $16.5 million per year.
Although Howard has played two years since signing the contract, the team views it as coming after only one year, since the first new year came in 2020.
“After one year, it’s honestly something that hasn’t been done before,” Flores said. “Not saying we’re drawing a line in the sand, but different players set the market every year.”
On one hand, the Dolphins surely are concerned about the precedent they’d be setting. On the other hand, the Dolphins need to realize that they got a bargain by dangling a six-year deal in 2019. New-money shenanigans notwithstanding, it truly was a $12.75 million contract. He has played at a level higher than that.
The fact that Howard has changed agents makes his effort to get a new deal even more understandable; his new agent won’t get paid until Howard signs a new deal. The depressed salary cap makes it harder to accomplish.
Howard is doing what he can to apply leverage — he’s withholding services in the offseason. For now, the cost of doing so won’t be more than a total of $93,085. If the skips training camp, it will cost $50,000 per day. Under the 2020 CBA, those amounts no longer can be waived by the team.