Coach Brian Flores addressed the issue at length on Tuesday morning, noting that he didn’t think Howard would be there for the minicamp while mentioning “one-off” and “renegotiation after one” several times regarding his contract.
“It’s pretty clear that this is a contractual situation, which we talked about internally,” said Flores. “X is a bit of a unique situation. It has been extended and we are now talking about a potential renegotiation after a year. It turns into longer conversations. We understand this. We’ve obviously had a lot of discussions and conversations about this and we’ll continue to have and keep them internal, but it’s a very unique conversation. “
Howard, who hasn’t shown up to any part of the Dolphins’ voluntary offseason program this year, can be fined up to $ 93,085 for skipping the mandatory minicamp – $ 15,515 for the first day missed, $ 31,030 for the second missed day and $ 46,540 for the third missed day.
When in good health, Howard is one of the best lockdown cornerbacks in the NFL. He led the NFL in interceptions last year with 10 – the most by a player since Antonio Cromartie in 2007. He finished third in the AP Defensive Player of the Year vote and had a strong argument for winning the award against the defensive tackle from the Los Angeles Rams. Aaron Donald and Pittsburgh Steelers rusher TJ Watt.
Howard feels he has surpassed the five-year $ 75.25 million extension he signed in May 2019, which is expected to earn him $ 12.075 million in 2021 and $ 49.325 million over the four next seasons. New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who signed a five-year, $ 65 million free agent contract in 2017 and is expected to earn $ 7 million this year, is also resisting the mandatory minicamp.
The market has changed since these two agreements. Howard saw the Dolphins sign cornerback Byron Jones to a five-year, $ 82.5 million contract in March 2020, and then Howard dominated Jones last season, which has a role in his desire for a new one. contract. Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey is now the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL after signing a five-year, $ 100 million extension.
“We love X. We love him. He is very productive. He’s a team player. He is an important player in this team. Unique situation, ”said Flores. “We want to keep him here. Specific to Byron, markets are set each year and that’s part of the conversation. This is what makes it unique. “
Several teams have approached the Dolphins about a trade with Howard over the past year, but so far Miami hasn’t shown a serious urge to deal with its star cornerback, said. sources at ESPN. As Flores has said publicly, the Dolphins want to keep it. The contract situation only makes the relationship a little stickier.
A key point of contention between the two sides is the length of the deal and the renegotiation so soon after Howard’s extension in May 2019. At that time, the deal made Howard the highest paid cornerback. of the NFL with $ 15.05 million a year. He played two years on that deal – but only one on the new part of the expansion given in 2019 was the final year of his rookie contract. He has four years left on his current contract, although only his 2021 salary is fully guaranteed. His salary for 2022 is partially guaranteed in the event of injury.
“After a year it’s honestly something that has never been done before,” said Flores. “I’m not saying we draw a line in the sand, but different players define the market every year. “
Further contract adjustments have happened after a year in the past, but it usually follows a short-term extension and not soon after a longer extension like Howard’s five-year extension. There may be a happy medium where Howard receives a modest raise with incentives or more money guaranteed, but the overall structure of the deal doesn’t change. Although to date, this common ground has not been reached.
One element that hinders Howard’s pursuit is that he has missed 24 games in his career due to knee injuries, and health tends to be a bigger question mark as players get older. Howard, 27, is still in his prime, but getting a raise and a restructured deal is getting harder with the injury issue and the recent overtime.
The Dolphins appear to be a much better team with Howard leading their defense, as Miami went from being the 32nd scoring defense in the NFL in 2019 (when Howard missed most of the season with injury) to the fifth with 21.1 points per game in 2020, when Howard had his career year (playing all 16 games).