The main storyline surrounding the Dolphins' minicamp was the absence of cornerback Xavien Howard, who is holding out in hopes of having his contract restructured. The league's leader in interceptions (10) and passes defensed (20) last season, Howard has four years remaining on a five-year, $75.25 million extension he signed in May in 2019. Howard may request a trade if the two sides fail to come to an agreement, according to the Miami Herald.
Fellow Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones -- who signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the club last offseason after leaving the Cowboys -- recently addressed his teammate's situation during a media session. The duo helped the Dolphins defense rank first in the NFL in third-down efficiency, seventh in red zone efficiency and sixth in scoring in 2020.
"I would love to have him, of course; but like you said, it's none of my business," Jones said, via Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk. "But we had fun last year. We balled out. Obviously what he did was completely special and unlike anything I've ever seen before and those skills are — we love those skills in our defense. So yes, we'd love to have him back, of course."
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Dolphins coach Brian Flores said that Howard and the team have had discussions about "a renegotiation of an extension." Flores called it a "unique situation" considering that Howard is seeking a renegotiation with four years remaining on his current deal.
"After one year, it's something that hasn't been done before," Flores said. "Not saying we're drawing a line in the sand. We obviously had a lot of talks and will continue to have those and keep those internal. We love X. He's very productive. He's a team player. He's an important player on this team. Unique situation. We want to keep him here."
The news of Howard's holdout came just two days after the Dolphins came to terms with linebacker Jerome Baker on a three-year, $39 million extension with $28 million guaranteed. Miami currently has about $5.27 million in salary cap space, according to Over the Cap.
While many teams would likely be interested in trading for a player of Howard's caliber, his price tag would probably limit the amount of teams who would throw their hat in the ring. The teams with the highest estimated salary cap space include the Jaguars, Broncos, and Jets, respectively. Denver is likely keeping some cap space open in the event that the Packers cannot patch things up with Aaron Rodgers, who like Howard was a minicamp no-show.
The 38th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Howard -- when healthy -- has proven to be one of the NFL's top cornerbacks. After missing more than half of his rookie season with an injury, Howard recorded four interceptions and 13 passes defensed in 2017. He earned his first Pro Bowl selection in 2018 after leading the league with seven interceptions. After an injury sidelined him for most of the 2019 season, Howard enjoyed his best season to date in 2020, earning his first All-Pro nod while helping the Dolphins post a 10-6 record.