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Dolphins to Cut CB Xavien Howard, Set to Join Star-Studded FA Class

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be monitoring the free agent cornerback market, which just made a big addition in Xavien Howard.



Pittsburgh Steelers FA Target Xavien Howard
Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) celebrates after making an interception against the Pittsburgh Steelers in an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

The Miami Dolphins have informed star cornerback Xavien Howard that he will be released at the start of the new league year, according to a report by Mike Garafalo of NFL Network, adding another huge name to an already loaded free agent cornerback class.

Howard, 30, signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Dolphins in 2022 and had been set to earn $18.5 million in 2024. The team will save that amount against the salary cap this season, but incur a $7.4 million dead cap hit.

A second-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft out of Baylor, Howard has spent his entire career in Miami. He led the NFL in interceptions twice, in 2018 and 2020, earning All-Pro nods in both of those seasons, and has been a four-time Pro Bowler.

But things haven’t been all smiles recently in South Beach. In 2021, Howard announced that he had requested a trade from Miami, claiming he was underpaid. He claimed that he only reported to training camp that season so that he wouldn’t get fined.

The Dolphins acquiesced, reworking his contract in 2021, and then signing him to a huge extension in 2022, but his play hasn’t met the demands of that new contract. Howard led the league with 10 interceptions in 2020. He had five in 2021, but just one in each of the last two seasons. This past season, he also did not force or recover a fumble and didn’t have a sack, contributing almost no splash plays to a Miami defense that finished 23rd in yards and 22nd in points allowed.

Xavien Howard will now hit the free agent market, which is crowded with elite cornerbacks.

Jaylon Johnson of the Chicago Bears and L’Jarius Sneed of the Kansas City Chiefs are big-time corners still in the primes of their careers, while Howard will join aging Dallas Cowboys star Stephon Gilmore as big names looking for one last pay day. Kendall Fuller (Washington Commanders), Chidobe Awuzie (Cincinnati Bengals) and Steven Nelson (Houston Texans) have also been reliable starters. 

The Steelers will likely have a keen interest in the cornerback market. Starting outside cornerback Levi Wallace and starting slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan are both set to hit free agency, and do-it-all defensive back Patrick Peterson is a potential salary cap casualty, which could lead the Steelers to look to free agency to fill their vacant depth chart at cornerback.