One day before he went public with his trade request, Miami Dolphins All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard and his agent David Canter talked with the team one final time to try to resolve the player’s contract situation.
The Dolphins have continually listened to salary proposals from Howard and Canter in meetings with general manager Chris Grier and even coach Brian Flores -- so far without resolution during the offseason -- so in the final meeting before the start of training camp the player suggested another solution that would merely move money on his current contract around rather than request a totally new deal.
Howard and Canter previously asked the Dolphins to move $4 million from Howard’s $11.65 million base salary scheduled for 2024 to this year.
That move would’ve accomplished multiple things: It would have made Howard the highest-paid player on the team, which he isn’t. It would have made him the highest-paid cornerback on the team, which he isn’t.
And it would have made the player feel appreciated and motivated to continue playing at a high level after leading the NFL with 10 interceptions in 2020.
Moving the money forward would have also paid Howard money now, at age 28, that he may not necessarily ever see in 2024 at age 31.
The Dolphins did not agree.
Nor did they agree to trade Howard when he originally asked for it -- which apparently came before he went public on the eve of training camp practices.
Nor did they agree to a separate request -- to fully guarantee Howard’s 2022 scheduled salary of $12.375 million -- when that was suggested.
And so Howard went public with his displeasure.
“My agent David Canter and I have never once asked for a completely new contract,” Howard wrote on his Instagram account to his 149,000 followers.
“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. Those 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.”
None of Howard’s proposals seem outrageous on their face. And each would likely increase his trade value if he carries those requests to a new team rather than seeking a whole new renegotiation.
The Dolphins’ stated reason for declining to shift money around on Howard’s deal?
They apparently don’t like the idea of setting the precedent of reworking a standing contract, according to a source. And they’ve made it clear to Howard they have concerns about his injury history.
That injury history, which includes Howard missing nine games as a rookie in 2016 and four more in 2018, didn’t prevent the Dolphins from extending him in the summer of 2019.
That deal paid Howard $27 million fully guaranteed for what was effectively six seasons.
The next summer, in 2020, the Dolphins paid Byron Jones $46 million fully guaranteed on a five-year deal to play the cornerback spot opposite Howard.
Howard didn’t appreciate that the team valued a new player with less production more than him. And it has not escaped Howard’s attention that the Dolphins last season made a statement practically every game: That the cornerback making less money was better.
“The assignments I’m given, shadowing the opposition’s best player with little help, proves my value, my worth,” Howard wrote. “Yet I’m the second-highest paid cornerback on my own team and it’s not even close.”
The worrisome thing about this situation is it seems to be getting personal.
The negotiations have certainly been personal. Because the Dolphins requested Howard join Canter in face-to-face meetings with Grier and others at least once.
How did that go?
The Dolphins asked Canter to not speak with the media -- which is a typical request they make of all agents so as to not make negotiations more difficult for them. In return the team promised it would consider adjusting Howard’s contract.
Canter complied and stopped returning texts seeking comment since his first meeting with the team on this subject on January 11. But all considerations aside, the club has not moved toward actually adjusting Howard’s current deal which runs through 2024.
“The Dolphins refused everything we proposed,” Howard wrote. “That is why I don’t feel the organization has dealt with me in good faith.”
“Those conversations with X, his representation, Chris (Grier), myself; those will, like always, will be internal, confidential and it will always be that way,” Flores said Tuesday. “We’ll keep it that way with all players. But we’re excited to have him. I’m excited to work with him. He’s a great player and I look forward to building over the course of training camp.”
So where does this go from here?
Howard is merely reporting to camp every day so as to avoid a mandatory $50,000 fine he’d be assessed for holding out.
But does that mean he’ll practice, risking an injury that could sidetrack his trade request?
That is not clear. Howard has promised to “handle myself like professionals do.”
The Dolphins, meanwhile, have told Howard and Canter they don’t intend to trade him. That could be true. He is, after all, their most productive player.
Or it could be a negotiating stance.
The club initially resisted the idea of trading disgruntled defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019 before ultimately sending him to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And then there’s this: Will Howard’s demeanor in the locker room, where teammates are aware he is “not happy,” as he wrote, have a harmful effect on team-building?
That will almost definitely be addressed with Howard no later than Wednesday morning -- when the Dolphins are scheduled to practice for the first time this training camp at 10:30 a.m.
Flores, by the way, is not scheduled to speak with reporters again until Friday. He is scheduled to go on the Joe Rose radio show in the morning.