It didn’t take long for Xavien Howard to garner interest from teams looking to possibly acquire the All-Pro cornerback. Less than 24 hours after Howard formally requested a trade out of Miami, two 2020 playoff teams — among others — inquired about a trade for Howard, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The 28-year-old Howard would be a significant addition to any defense. The former second-round pick has twice led the NFL in interceptions, recording a career-best 10 picks in 2020. Howard also broke up a league-high 20 passes while helping Miami boast the league’s top-ranked third-down defense. Howard’s services would come at a steep price, however, as he has four years remaining on a five-year, $75.25 million contract extension. While he clearly does not want to continue to play under his current contract, Howard said on Tuesday that he is not necessarily asking for a completely new deal.
“We wanted things to work out with the Dolphins, and brought solutions to the table — like guaranteeing more money — that we felt were win-wins for both sides,” Howard said in a statement released via Twitter. “These were proposals of adjustments that wouldn’t just make me feel more respected, but were also cap friendly. But the Dolphins refused everything we proposed.”
The Dolphins have yet to publicly announce whether they plan to grant the trade request to Howard, who was a full participant during the team’s practice on Wednesday. If the Dolphins ultimately decide to trade him, here are five possible landing spots that would make since for all parties involved.
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Arizona is dealing with its own trade request, as former All-Pro pass rusher Chandler Jones has requested a move out of the desert. While it’s unclear whether or not the Cardinals will trade him, dealing Jones would free up a significant amount of cap space. The Cardinals could even package Jones in a trade that would allow them to acquire Howard, who would fill a major void in Arizona’s secondary following the offseason departure of Patrick Peterson. With Howard, the Cardinals would have a formidable defensive backfield that would also include cornerback Malcolm Butler and safety Budda Baker. Adding Howard may be enough to get the Cardinals over the hump after just missing the playoffs last season.
Like their NFC West foe, the Seahawks have their own questions at cornerback after parting with Shaquill Griffin this offseason. In Seattle, Howard would be complemented by Pro Bowl safeties Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs. The move would also be a signal to Russell Wilson that the Seahawks are serious about contending for a title in 2021 after having a relatively quiet offseason. Trade equity is the biggest obstacle in this scenario. Seattle gave up its 2022 first-round pick when it acquired Adams from New York. The Seahawks also would have to make drastic salary cap adjustments if they were to acquire Howard.
The Chiefs made drastic changes on the offensive line after watching Patrick Mahomes turn into Fran Tarkenton in Super Bowl LV. And while it wasn’t as big of a need, the Chiefs didn’t do much to improve a secondary that was outmatched by Tom Brady in last year’s big game. Adding Howard would further cement Kansas City’s status as the front-runner to once again represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. If they are one of the teams that is actively trying to land Howard, the Chiefs would first have to extend Tyrann Mathieu’s contract, which would likely free up as much as $7 million in salary cap space.
Tennessee could use some help at cornerback, especially with first-round pick Caleb Farley currently on the team’s physically unable to perform list (PUP). Along with acquiring one of the league’s premier cornerbacks, Howard would give the Titans the luxury of not rushing Farley onto the field. The Titans would have two veteran cornerbacks in Howard and Janoris Jenkins along with youngsters Farley and 2020 second-round pick Kristian Fulton. The Titans have future draft equity to make this deal work; the real challenge would be reworking their current salary cap situation (they are 21st in the league in available cap space).
Despite a host of offseason departures, the Saints still fancy themselves as a legitimate contender in 2021. In order to make that optimism a reality, New Orleans would be wise to pursue Howard while addressing their major void at cornerback. Acquiring Howard would not only help the Saints’ chances at being a playoff team in 2021, it would also offer them the luxury of possibly allowing fellow cornerback Marshon Lattimore to depart next offseason.