Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, coming off a 10-interception season and unhappy about his contract, said Tuesday evening that he would like to play elsewhere.
“I’m not happy, and I’ve requested a trade,” Howard said in a statement released through his agent, David Canter. “Until that trade happens, I am just here so I don’t get fined and will handle myself like professionals do.”
Howard, 28, reported for the first day of training camp on Tuesday because the alternative would have been an NFL-required fine of $50,000 per day. He previously was fined more than $90,000 for missing the team’s June mandatory minicamp.
The Dolphins have refused his request to renegotiate the five year, $76.5 million extension that he signed in May 2019 and have made no promises that they will do so in the future, according to a source. That deal included $27 million fully guaranteed, per overthecap.com.
Dolphins coach Brian Flores declined to answer earlier Tuesday when asked whether the Dolphins would grant a potential trade request or give him more money. He called Howard a “great” player.
On Tuesday evening, the Dolphins declined to comment in the wake of his trade request.
“I’ve given my heart and soul to the Miami Dolphins franchise since they drafted me in 2016, and want to make it clear that I love my teammates,” Howard said in the statement.
“They are my family. But what I’ve learned is that the business side of the NFL proves organizations don’t always have a player’s best interest at heart.
“My experience with the Dolphins the past few seasons has taught me that. In 2018 [actually 2019], I signed an extension that I’ll admit I didn’t completely understand or feel comfortable with.
“I’ve played on that deal for two seasons and didn’t complain, but everyone knows I’ve significantly outperformed that deal. I’m one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, and the tape backs up that claim. The assignments I’m given, shadowing the opposition’s best player with little help, proves my value, my worth. Yet I’m the second highest paid cornerback on my own team, and it’s not even close.”
Howard, in the statement, went on to say: “I want to clear up a few misconceptions about my situation. My agent David Canter and I have never once asked for a completely new contract.
“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. They 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.
“That is why I don’t feel the organization has dealt with me in good faith. I don’t feel valued or respected by the Dolphins. Just like they can take a business-first approach, so can I. That’s why I want to make it clear I’m not happy, and have requested a trade.”
Whether the Dolphins grant his trade request remains to be seen. The Dolphins previously granted the trade requests of two unhappy players - Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kiko Alonso.
The difference is that Howard is the Dolphins’ best player, an essential piece with 18 interceptions over his past 33 games, the most by the NFL in that period.
Last October, Howard’s former agent told the Dolphins that Howard would be open to a trade, but the Dolphins privately conveyed that they preferred not to trade him would only consider trading him for a Laremy Tunsil-type return - meaning multiple first-round picks and more.
Arizona has been mentioned as a possible option, and several teams are expected to express interest. SI.com reported interest from Dallas.
Howard - who was first-team All Pro last season and a two-time Pro Bowler - makes an average annual salary of $15 million if only the five years of the extension are included in that calculation, which makes him the sixth-highest-paid cornerback in the league using that particular calculation.
But the Dolphins gave him that extension before the final year of his rookie deal and didn’t increase his pay that final year of his rookie deal. So it’s also accurate to say that Howard’s contract averages $12.75 million over six seasons.
The top five cornerbacks in average annual pay: The Rams’ Jalen Ramsey ($20 million), Baltimore’s Marlon Humphrey ($19.5 million), Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White ($17.3 million), Philadelphia’s Darius Slay ($16.7 million) and the Dolphins’ Byron Jones ($16.5 million).
The Dolphins’ decision to give Jones a five-year, $82.5 million contract during March 2020 set the stage for Howard’s unhappiness.
Jones is due $55.3 million from 2021 through 2024, though only $20 million of that is guaranteed ($14 million in 2021, $6 million in 2022).
Howard is due $49 million from 2021 through 2024, though only $12.1 million of that is guaranteed (all in 2021).
Howard has had multiple knee procedures, which could be a consideration for some teams with interest.
Beyond Howard and Jones, the Dolphins’ cornerback room includes - among others - Noah Igbinoghene (the 30th overall pick in the 2020 draft), former Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty (who also is playing safety for Miami), Nik Needham and former Lions cornerback Justin Coleman.