Xavien Howard is the last man many quarterbacks would want to throw to. The two-time Pro Bowler and interceptions leader has proven to be an intimidating cornerback since 2016. Over his tenure with the Miami Dolphins, Howard has 22 career interceptions and 54 passes defended. Last season alone, he set career highs for both statistics: 10 picks and 20 passes defended, further solidifying his reputation as a force in the NFL.
But the more the rumor mill churns, the more there seems a possibility Howard’s time in Miami is shorter than many think.
The NFL Network’s Michael Silver reporting back on June 14, the stud corner doesn’t like his Miami contract, which means a new team is likely his home for the 2021 season.
MINI-THREAD: 1) Excited about my new @WashingtonNFL contributor gig; since I still work for @nflnetwork, some journalism: There's a lot of trade chatter concerning Dolphins All-Pro CB Xavien Howard, who led the NFL with 10 interceptions in 2020 & is unhappy with his contract…
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) July 14, 2021
There’s plenty of teams that could trade for the defender; in a division where speedy wide receivers are poised to take names, the NFC West could use his services. Of course, money’s going to be a factor; which team is willing to shell past the $75 million mark for the corner?
If the West is where Howard goes, who is most likely to take him?
Putting Howard in a secondary that already has Jamal Adams is absolutely a plus. Not to mention adding Howard would more than fill the gap left by Shaquill Griffin.
Considering how porous the secondary was in 2020, Howard to the Seahawks isn’t outlandish. One doesn’t go last season averaging a league third-worst 278.2 passing yards per game and not make some changes.
Several defensive backs on the squad will have to prove themselves this coming season for Seattle. Marquise Blair and D.J. Reed, even in limited action last year, are two corners most likely to succeed. However, that hinges on Blair staying healthy and Reed continuing to grow.
But would general manager John Schneider be willing to cough up the pretty penny for Howard? Seattle also needs as much depth as possible; trading a good portion away for Howard doesn’t seem wise.
Under the right circumstances, Seattle could most certainly have a use for Xavien Howard. But it’s simply a matter of cost, and the Seahawks will likely not aggravate their cap space. Not when Adams and quarterback Russell Wilson make up a sizable part of it.
Los Angeles Rams
The short answer is likely no; the Rams are coming off a season where they had the top passing defense in the league during 2020. Los Angeles giving up 193.8 yards per game plus 1.2 passing touchdowns per game.
Then again, the Rams couldn’t stop Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay from passing for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns in the Divisional Round.
Plus, fellow corners Troy Hill and John Johnson are with other teams now, leaving a substantial gap for the
rest of the secondary to fill.
Yet, even though Jalen Ramsey plus Xavien Howard looks excellent on paper, it’s just speculation like Seattle. The Rams don’t have a reason to go after Howard, not when Ramsey is worth the five-year $105 million deal L.A. is spending on him.
Along with paying Aaron Donald, there isn’t much room for the Rams to sign anyone with the money Howard deserves.
The Cardinals have more cap space than Seattle and Los Angeles and look like a team in need of a well-established defensive back.
Rookies Tay Gowan and Marco Wilson need time to develop despite the potential both have. The veterans currently with Arizona have some questions as well. Robert Alford has suffered two straight season-ending injuries since 2018. Malcolm Butler is in a situation akin to wide receiver A.J. Green. Both men are still good players, but they’re no longer at their peak.
Budda Baker and Byron Murphy remain the faces of the secondary, more so now as Arizona enters the post-Patrick Peterson era.
Baker is coming off a 118-tackle season with his first two NFL interceptions to boot. Murphy is a mainstay by now but after a 51-tackle campaign, his expectations are significantly higher.
Adding Howard would be a steep cost, and it ultimately depends on competitive the front office wants to be this season.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are retaining most of their defensive backs going into training camp. K’Waun Williams and Jason Verrett are locked in for 2021 and will be starters as long as they’re healthy.
The two corners were part of a defense that finished fourth-best in the league in passing yards allowed (207.9 YPG). Add in Emmanuel Mosley and the secondary still has some teeth to it. However, that position may not be as formidable as it once was.
Richard Sherman is likely not coming back. Off-field arrest aside, the kind of money Sherman earns is just something the 49ers can’t sustain anymore for a player like him. Not to mention Ahkello Witherspoon is now playing for the enemy in Seattle.
It’s going to be very hard in general for the 49ers to sign any major free agent. San Francisco has about $15 million worth of cap space remaining; unless quarterback Jimmy Garappolo is sent packing in a trade, there’s not much general manager John Lynch can do.
The 49ers get the benefit of a doubt based on the possibility they could get a lot of cap space back by unloading Jimmy Garappolo. Barring rookie Trey Lance making absolute waves in training camp, Garappolo should remain the starter.
Admittedly, it’s potentially too unrealistic for any team in the NFC West to sign Xavien Howard. Each team’s cap space may just be too much at risk to take a stab at pursuing him.
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