Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard swapped out the last year of his rookie deal for a six-year contract in 2019. He now wants to tear it up and start over.
And for good reason. Howard has outplayed the deal. However, that was the risk he took when accepting certainty and security at a time when he was carrying the risk of injury and ineffectiveness into the final season of his rookie contract.
Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald suggests that Howard will stay away from training camp unless he gets a new deal. Salguero says that Howard then will request a trade.
It’s a high-stakes game of poker for Howard and his new agent, David Canter. The 2020 labor deal imposes fines in the amount of $50,000 per day on training-camp holdouts, and for players operating under their second contract, the fines cannot be waived.
A trade would not wreck Miami’s salary cap. Howard would leave behind a cap charge of $1.4 million this year and $2.8 million in 2022. Still, Howard’s new team also would have to be willing to sign him to the contract that he wants, along with giving up the compensation that the Dolphins will want for the trade.
The Dolphins will be inclined to hold firm, for fear of setting a bad precedent. However, they had to realize when signing Howard to a deal that looked much better than it was that Howard may want to rip it up, if he performs at a high level.
It’s easy to shrug and say, “A deal’s a deal.” However, if Howard had performed poorly the past two seasons, the Dolphins wouldn’t hesitate to ask him to take a pay cut or, if he refused, to cut him. While the one-way nature of contracts is a fact of life in the NFL, players who have a limited window of their lifetimes for making significant money while playing football need to do what they can while they can to get full and fair value for their efforts.
One possibility would be to shift from future money into 2021 and then re-do the deal or trade Howard after the season. Ultimately, the situation comes down to Howard’s willingness to stay away, the team’s willingness to dig in, and the question of whether the impasse can be broken without Howard sitting out one or more regular-season games.