Should the Eagles go all-in on Xavien Howard?

Dolphins vs Bengals
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – NOVEMBER 25:Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) warms up on the field before the NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins on November 25, 2018, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

During the heart of 2017’s Training Camp, Howie Roseman did something that shocked many. Out of the blue, he traded WR Jordan Matthews for a young cornerback in Ronald Darby. This would go on to be crucial, with Patrick Robinson able to move back inside where he he’d later thrive. If we fast forward to 2021, the team could be poised to make a similar move.

According to numerous reports, Miami Dolphins CB Xavien Howard is looking for a new payday. I know, I thought the same. He literally signed a five-year contract worth $72M last offseason. He’s apparently unhappy with the fact there’s no guaranteed money left on the table and has opted out of both mandatory workouts and voluntary, incurring a $93k fine in the process. Partnered with the fact that the Dolphins were more than happy to sling money at Byron Jones, Howard, who led the league in interceptions last year, isn’t a happy bunny.

We know that Chris Grier isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a big-time trade, just ask Minkah Fitzpatrick. If the potential holdouts and toxicity inside the building are not worth the hassle, then the Dolphins may look to move on from Xavien Howard. But could the Eagles even be in a position to acquire him?

What is the value of Xavien Howard?

There’s no doubting Howard’s talent. On top of leading the league in picks last year and tying a franchise record, he also led the NFL in pass-deflections due to his impressive range and press-man ability. While he’s at his best when squeezing routes to the boundary, he has the speed to carry routes downfield and the instincts to be more than effective in zonal situations. Howard an eyebrow-raising ability to change direction without losing momentum, and is more than happy to come off of his assignment and pick off a pass.

However, with no guaranteed money left on his contract, he can be cut prior to the start of the 2022 season for a saving of around $12M in cap space. This may lower his trade value somewhat and the more Howard pounds the table for a way out, the more his value may drop due to teams realizing that there’s a good chance he’d be available on the free agent market within a year.

In an ideal situation, Howard would benefit from a change of scenery and a contract that pays him more than Byron Jones and features guaranteed money throughout. That’s not optimal for Howie Roseman and his salary-based antics, but it’s not an impossible move to make.

The Eagles need help

If there’s one hole on this team, it’s cornerback. The dire need for a cornerback to run in tandem with Darius Slay is one that hasn’t been addressed all offseason. The team drafted slot CB Zech McPhearson, but on the perimeter, it’s unproven underdogs looking to earn their spot as a starter. But if Howie Roseman is really struggling to resist picking up that phone one more time, hey may be in luck.

The Eagles have around $3M in cap space for the remainder of this season (per OverTheCap). Facilitating the arrival of Howard’s $13M cap-hit would require some wizardry, but there are bound to be players included in a potential trade.

We know for instance that Miami have questionable depth behind Mike Gesicki. The drafting of Hunter Long will add some long-term growth, but adding a name like Zach Ertz ($12M cap hit) could help them a lot.

Derek Barnett carries a further $10M cap hit and is in his option-year. Jaelan Phillips was a home-run hit in the Draft, but adding a player who could be re-signed for nearly half the price if he struggles to prove his worth in 2021 and is still only 24-years-old might also appeal to Grier and the Dolphins.

The next step would be looking at working out the new contract. Byron Jones signed a five-year deal worth $82M last offseason with a whopping $54M in guarantees. Howard’s injury history might have prevented Miami from going all-in at the time, but he’s since proved he’s worth every last penny. The Eagles would realistically be looking at paying around $90M with potentially $60M in guarantees.

This would mean that they’re paying two corners an average of at least $16M, and it would make Howard the third-highest paid CB in the entire league. However, the Eagles have done this before with defensive tackle, loading up on interior talent prior to the 2020 season.

We know that Darius Slay won’t be around forever and he’s already had to restructure his deal due to the pressing cap situation the Eagles found themselves in. But if they meet Howard’s price-tag, the team do have a potential-out on Slay’s contract after this year, essentially moving that money into Howard’s corner, letting Slay walk, and setting themselves up to draft one of the top names from next year’s class, depending on the assets given up in the trade.

Will the Eagles make a move?

The Dolphins reportedly want multiple first-round picks for Howard. It just so happens that the Eagles could be sitting on three. Would they mortgage them all for a cornerback when they could potentially trade up for the services of Derek Stinlgey Jr. during the upcoming offseason? It’s doubtful. But if Miami just want to get him out of their hair, maybe the idea of Ertz/Barnett and a couple of mid-round picks, or even a 2023 first would take some of the sting out. They’d have to move at least one first-round pick from the 2022 Draft, but if they can package together a couple of heavy cap-hitters and negate the demand for more first-round capital, then it’s at least logical.

If the Eagles are reportedly willing to make a YOLO move for Deshaun Watson despite there being a million reasons not to, then a similar move for a player who actually ticks a huge need for the team and just so happens to coincide with the potential-out in Slay’s contract is almost a no-brainier.

Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire