What a difference a year makes. Last summer, Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard requested a trade after frustrations grew over his contract situation. Miami was able rework his contract shortly after his trade request, making Howard the league's highest-paid cornerback for the 2021 season. On Friday, the two sides came to terms on a restructured five-year contract that includes nearly $51,691,177 in new money, according to Howard's agent.
The deal includes the most guaranteed money for a cornerback in NFL history. A two-time Pro Bowler, Howard had three years and $39.3 million remaining on his previous contract.
The 36th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Howard has been a Pro Bowler three of the past four years. He's led the NFL in interceptions twice, which included his career-high of 10 picks in 2020. He also led the NFL with 20 passes defensed that season while helping Miami post its best season since his rookie campaign. Howard made the Pro Bowl again last season after tallying five interceptions, 16 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns.
Miami recently made headlines after acquiring six-time Pro Bowl receiver Tyreek Hill via a trade with the Chiefs and giving him a four-year, $120 million extension, which makes him the highest-paid receiver in NFL history. The Dolphins' active offseason also included the acquisitions of former free agents Raheem Mostert, Terron Armstead, Chase Edmonds, Cedrick Wilson Jr. and Teddy Bridgewater. Miami also franchise tagged tight end Mike Gesicki while re-signing defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah.
The 2022 season will be the first in Miami for first-year head coach Mike McDaniel, who spent the 2021 season as the 49ers' offensive coordinator. Along with finding ways to utilize Hill's playmaking ability, McDaniel sees limitless potential in second-year receiver Jaylen Waddle, the sixth-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. While he averaged less than 10 yards per reception last season, Waddle was a consistent and reliable target for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He caught 104 of 140 targets for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns while helping the Dolphins finish with a 9-8 record after a 1-7 start.
"He's a phenomenal talent, and guess what, the best and easiest way to get yards is give it to a really talented player," McDaniel said during an appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. "The 49ers, the last four or five years, have led the league in YAC. The reason is because we were addicted to getting our skill position players that are good with running the ball the ball. So yes, I would start him in fantasy.
"Beyond that, I think you should see some jumps in the Miami Dolphins' offense next year. What those look like will be determined this offseason and the way the players work and attack things moving forward."
While the offense should be much improved, the Dolphins defense appears well equipped to build off a strong finish to the 2021 campaign. Locking up a talent like Howard will go a long way toward ensuring that will happen this season and in years to come.