The Dolphins met with representatives for cornerback Xavien Howard in Indianapolis this week and conveyed interest in signing him to a longterm contract, according to a team source.
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said publicly this week that Howard is fully expected to be on the team in 2019. But the Dolphins went further in their meeting, making clear they view him as a key part of their longterm future.
Howard, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season, is open to signing a longterm deal this offseason if the money is right.
The sides did not discuss money in their meeting, but the Dolphins are aware of what it takes to sign top corners – likely something in the range of $13 million to $15 million annually.
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The Dolphins, during the meeting, said they have other issues to attend to in the coming weeks but would likely present a longterm offer to Howard this summer.
Howard already has met new coach Brian Flores and holds him in high regard.
Howard can make a strong case to be among the league’s highest paid cornerbacks. Washington’s Josh Norman owns that distinction after Washington gave him a five-year, $75 million deal in 2016; Trumaine Johnson is close at five years, $72.5 million.
Howard is due to make $1.3 million this season in the final year of his rookie deal.
Howard, 25, finished No. 1 in the NFL in passer rating against at 62.9 (minimum 50 targets). He also tied for the league lead with seven interceptions despite missing the final four weeks with a knee injury.
For the season, he allowed 29 of 57 passes to be caught for 469 yards, four touchdowns and the seven picks.
Overall, Howard has 11 interceptions in 35 NFL games and is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance.
If the Dolphins are unable to strike a longterm deal with Howard, they have the option of using the franchise tag on him next spring. The Dolphins would like to keep him longterm but under no circumstances want to lose him for nothing.
Here was my piece last month about the state of the Dolphins’ defensive backfield moving forward.