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“This is a little bit of a unique situation. I’m sure you guys all understand this.”
Brian Flores and the Miami Dolphins don’t typically talk about player contracts in the public realm. But on Tuesday, as the Dolphins welcomed the rest of their team back to the team facility for mandatory mini-camp, Flores was left little choice. Xavien Howard was not in attendance. And after months of speculation, the levees finally broke open. Miami had a holdout on their hand.
Yet despite the unfamiliarity in discussing team finances in the public space, Flores did well to approach the conversation with tact and empathy — even if he did appear to drop a clue about the Dolphins’ leverage and argument in the standoff over whether or not to “renegotiate” Howard’s contract extension.
Both sides of this contract dispute have legitimate arguments for and against making a new deal happen. From the Dolphins’ perspective, Howard is one year into a 5-year extension with the team — an unprecedented timeline to renegotiate a raise. But from Howard’s perspective, you’ll need to understand NFL finance to get a grasp on where he’s coming from.
On the surface, Howard is on a 5-year, $75.25M contract extension that was signed in the summer of 2019. His $15.05M average per season is still the 6th-highest annual average salary in the NFL. So what gives? Is Howard really that upset over that lofty of pay?
It isn’t the average of the deal that is bothersome. The issue is with the annual pay. The Dolphins dumped $14M in guarantees into the 2019 season — which was technically the last year on Howard’s rookie contract. And when you assess the new money that Howard is receiving each year, he’s not ranking well among other NFL cornerbacks.
In 2019, the year Howard signed his extension, he received $15.285M from the Dolphins — the second highest mark in all of football behind Joe Haden. But his 2020, 2021 and 2022 breakdowns hold the key as to why Howard is holding out. His annual pay (not salary cap hit) and rank in the NFL over those years:
2020: $11.97M (15th among NFL cornerbacks)
2021: $12.1M (11th among NFL cornerbacks)
2022: $12.97M (11th among NFL cornerbacks)
This is why Xavien Howard is holding out. Not because the annual average of his contract is 6th in the league. But because on the cusp of the 30-year age wall that typically knocks down cornerbacks (not to mention Howard’s struggles with knee issues in the past), Howard is currently set to play the last years of his physical prime in 2020-2022 and have just one year (2019) where he’s a top paid player at the position.
This isn’t to say Miami needs to meet his request. Howard, of course, signed the contract in 2019, after all. But if nothing else, Howard has a point on this front.