The Future of Miami Dolphins Cornerbacks

Xavien Howard is holding out for a new contract. Here are some potential options if his situation carries into the season.

As Xavien Howard, the Miami Dolphins Defensive Player of the Year nominee, sits out of minicamp in search of a contract that would make him the highest paid defensive back in the NFL, Miami enters their workout programs with a variety of potential options at the cornerback spot.

Paying Howard

The first, and most popular option among Dolphin fans, is paying Howard, who is looking for a contract upwards of $20 Million. That is the average annual salary of Jalen Ramsey, the current highest paid corner in the league. While the number seems steep, Howard definitely made his case for why he deserves a pay-raise of that caliber. With 10 interceptions and 20 passes defensed, Howard played well enough to place third in the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year voting. On a team that went 10-6 and is looking to make the playoffs on the back of their 4th ranked scoring defense, keeping Howard seems to be the most logical solution to this contract dispute.

Playing Time for a 1st Round CB

If Xavien Howard continues his holdout, with the Dolphins unwilling to renegotiate his contract, another potential route is a trade request from the First Team All Pro CB. A trade is being considered by him and his team, according to Dolphins beat writers. If the Dolphins were to go through with his request, they would be looking in different spots for a second cornerback to go alongside Byron Jones. The most likely fit for that spot is 2020 first round pick Noah Igbinoghene. 

Coming off a year where he saw little of the field, Igbinoghene had a rough time in the limited snaps he took. Dolphins DB’s, led by Igbinoghene, allowed 8 catches for 153 yards to Buffalo Bills WR Stefon Diggs in week 2 last season. Aside from that game, Igbinoghene logged very few snaps, mostly coming at the end of games that were already decided. 

But there is promise for the former Auburn Tiger, who has worked on his game and has impressed with his work ethic and production in minicamp, as he broke up several passes during the 7 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills. After spending a top 30 pick on Igbinoghene last year, the Dolphins have high hopes that he could come in and produce and potentially replace Howard if he were to be dealt.

Dolphins Writer Josh Tolentino labels CB Noah Igbinoghene a standout from minicamp.

Familiar Faces and New Additions

Along with Igbinoghene and Jones, the Dolphins have other intriguing cornerback options that could see playing time if Howard was moved or misses games with his contract dispute. Among those are Nik Needham, Justin Coleman and Jason McCourty. Needham was the Dolphins starting slot corner who had impressive stints last season, but struggled down the stretch and showed some inconsistency in coverage over the middle. With his struggles, he has still shown vast improvements in his game over his first 2 seasons, where he went from an undrafted free agent to a starter on an elite defense. 

Coleman and McCourty, on the other hand, are new additions, each with time playing in the system similar to the one Brian Flores and Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer run in Miami, along with both playing under Flores when he was the DC in New England. With their experience and knowledge of the scheme, the Dolphins could opt to go with them over a younger and more experienced option, such as Igbinoghene.

Dolphins Writer Travis Wingfield describes an interception in Minicamp from new addition Justin Coleman.

The Best Option

Although the Dolphins have many intriguing players at the cornerback spot, one constant still remains: None of them are as good as Xavien Howard. Coming off of the best season of his career where he played in all 16 games, Howard has shown that he can be a shutdown corner in this league for years to come. And in the modern NFL, where teams are passing more and more, a dominant defensive back is necessary in order to slow them down. 

The best option remains to pay Howard, but we will see what the Dolphins opt to do in the coming months regarding his contract, weighing their potential options for the future of their cornerback position.

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