Can Miami be fine without Xavien Howard?

There has been a trend over the past several seasons among NFL playoff teams to spend significant resources on their secondary.

Having at least a solid secondary in the pass centric modern game has become a necessity if you want to give your defense a fighting chance.

The top 3-4 defenses in the league spent the most on their defensive back groups at an average of 18.63 percent. This group had the largest disparity in spending between the top and bottom defenses with a 5.18 percent difference.

Miami runs a “hybrid” defense that consists of 3-4 and 4-3 base; however, with Miami’s positional alignments and roster notes for simple terms it is a 3-4 defense.

All the teams that have made it or won in the playoffs have put copious amounts of money into the secondary. Having a good to great secondary players have been a staple in elite defenses. An argument can be made that spending money on good players in the secondary leads to wins.

Rough estimates from Spotrac detail the money spent on starters:

Super Bowl WinnersSecondary Salary
New England (2019)$38 Million
New England (2017)$16 Million*
Denver (2016)$20.6 Million
Seattle (2014)$15,5 Million*
Baltimore (2013)$14 Million*
*Denotes majority of players on rookie deals

The Salary cap jumped significantly in 2014

The 2019 Patriots Super Bowl winning team had DPOY Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty, JC Jackson, and Jonathon Jones. These players contributed to the league leading #1 Defense manned by Bill Belicheck and Brian Flores.

The 2017 Patriot’s secondary consisted of Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty lead a 5th ranked defense to a Super bowl title. With other significant role players on their rookie contracts.

The Legendary Legion of Boom had all of their Corners, Sherman, Browner and Maxwell on rookie deals; while Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor took most of the salary cap room with their contracts en route to a stunning 35 point Super bowl win.

In a league run by QBs, the guys you pay to stop them are one of the most important position groups on the field.

The secondary.

In 2020 Miami spent roughly $44 million for their starters-rightly so winning games through crucial turnovers and coverage sacks-while dialing the blitz 40% of the time.

The top 4 teams secondary spending, excluding Miami goes like this:

2020 BAL-$41.3 Mill

2020 PIT-$25 Mill

2020 ARI- $23 Mill

Now lets take a look at the 2020 Playoff teams secondary spending:

2020 Playoff Teams Secondary Spending (in cap)
BAL $41.3 Million
BUF $36.9 Million
TENN $35.9 Million
PITT $29.8 Million
KC $29.4 Million
CHI $29.1 Million
WAS $29.1 Million
CLE* $26.8 Million
GB* $24.5 Million
NO $24.5 Million
SEA $22 Million
LAR $18.3 Million
TB* $10 Million
* Denotes majority of players on rookie deals

Most if not all of these playoff teams have put copious amount of money into their top 1 to 2 defensive backs to lock down one side, with complimentary players that can handle passes thrown their way. The investment also includes DB’s from the draft, low cost pickups and UDFA signings.

Regardless of whether or not Xavien Howard stays with Miami, they have put the resources into the position to have a good secondary. With current draftees in Noah Igbinoghene, Brandon Jones, Jevon Holland, UDFA Signing of Needham Trill Williams and efficient veteran deal for McCourty and Rowe, the Dolphins are fine depth wise as all players are versatile.

While there are some unknowns in the secondary, the Dolphins coaching staff has put players in position to succeed. The biggest impact is coaching ability to develop players and help them win thier matchups, which the aforementioned teams also did. Head Coach Brian Flores and DB’s Coach Gerald Alexander are highly touted for these skills.

Miami’s ceiling is much higher with Howard’s playmaking ability at corner, but it shouldn’t make or break their season.

Brian Flores wants Xavien Howard in his defense, I think the Dolphins organization will make something work, especially since Tua Tagovailoa is still on his rookie deal.

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Hussam Patel

Head Contributor for Dolphins- Around the Block Twitter: HussamPatel

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