One of the best cornerbacks the NFL has to offer officially wants out. Last night, Miami Dolphins CB Xavien Howard posted a personal essay explaining that he wanted a raise from the Dolphins after outperforming his contract, the Dolphins showed zero interest in giving him that raise, and thus he is asking for a trade.
The Marshawn Lynch reference at the end did not go unnoticed, Xavien. Worry not.
Howard led the NFL in both interceptions and passes defended last year. In 2018, the last year he was fully healthy before 2020, he led the league in interceptions again. He has risen very quickly over the last few seasons to become a top cornerback in the NFL and was named an All-Pro last season. Howard is a top-five CB in the league at worst right now, and the Dolphins should be loathe to lose him.
But such a public declaration about a contract dispute doesn't always sit well with a player's bosses. Miami might very well decide Howard isn't worth the headache and see what kind of value they can find on the trade market for his services. If they do shop Howard, it'll be tough to get a first-rounder in exchange because any team trading for him will also be altering his contract and giving him more money.
Here are four teams who could make a move for the reigning interception leader.
The Browns are coming off their best season in a long, long time and secondary is really their only position of true need on the roster. They aren't necessarily lacking for talent there with Greedy Williams, Denzel Ward, and 2020 first-rounder Greg Newsome III making up for a good young core. But, as good as Ward has become after his first two seasons, none are at the level Howard is. Sending out a second-rounder for Howard would make their cap situation tight, which will further complicate the inevitable Baker Mayfield extension. But Howard would give Cleveland a legit ballhawk in the secondary, and Howard should thrive given the elite pass-rush the Browns boast. The Browns need to load up if they want to beat the Chiefs, and Howard is by far the best player they could hope to find on the trade market in that regard.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers finally came to terms with Aaron Rodgers and it seems like it'll be one last ride for the mustached hero of Wisconsin. In the process, they apparently altered his contract to give them more cap space this year. What better way to use it than grabbing an elite cornerback to push their secondary over the top? Howard and Jaire Alexander would be one of the NFL's best cornerback duos from Day 1 and his acquisition may very well be the push they need to finally get over that NFC Championship hump. It's not a move the Packers normally make, but if there were ever a time to push all their chips into the middle of the table, it's this year. The worst-case scenario is they have two young and talented CBs under contract for the post-Rodgers era. The best? Howard is that difference-maker, the Packers win the Super Bowl, and Rodgers decides he'd like to stick around for a while. It's worth the risk. They don't have a ton of cap space but could move some pieces around to get Howard for this year and next season the cap should spike significantly, making that problem disappear.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are sitting comfortably with $18 million in cap space right now after they didn't go wild in free agency. That was the right move, but Los Angeles knows they have the most valuable commodity in football right now-- a good young quarterback on his rookie deal. Trading for Howard is the kind of trade a team in their position should make to capitalize as much as possible. Adding Howard to their secondary alongside Derwin James would make it an intimidating unit indeed and provide some needed reinforcements after losing Casey Heyward in free agency. Los Angeles isn't in contender territory quite yet, but adding Howard would certainly give them a boost. At the very least, they should be adding secondary talent whenever they can considering they reside in the AFC West.
Washington Football Team
This seems like the most likely trade partner for a variety of reasons. Washington has a legit chance to win the NFC East again and some even consider them favorites, considering nothing is ever guaranteed with the Cowboys. They also have the most available cap space in the NFL by a long shot according to Spotrac, with $54 million to work with. Their defense was elite last year because of a dominant front four, and Kendall Fuller was solid as their No. 1 CB last season. But Howard is a step above Fuller in terms of talent and production. Pairing him with Fuller and Chase Young makes for an excellent foundation for years to come and would allow Washington to go from having an elite pass rush to an elite defense, hard stop. It's the sort of move that makes sense in both the short- and long-term for the WFT.