NFL rumors: Steelers could pounce on available All-Pro Xavien Howard
A consequential offseason is in store for the Miami Dolphins. Another early postseason loss has raised questions about the team's present roster construction. Two Pro Bowl defenders are on the chopping block, per ESPN's Marcel Louis-Jacques. The first is Terron Armstead, who is weighing a potential retirement. The other is Xavien Howard, whose complex financial setup could facilitate his eventual departure.
Howard signed a five-year, $75 million contract in 2019. He added $50.6 million in new money with an extension in 2022. The All-Pro cornerback is the longest-tenured Dolphin, and he has a deep connection to the franchise. That said, his salary cap hit for next season is a whopping $25.9 million. Miami can save $18.5 million by cutting him after June 1, which would also open up more reps for the Dolphins' youth. The Jalen Ramsey acquisition last offseason dulls the need for Howard.
If the Dolphins decide to move on, the 30-year-old Howard figures to have a robust market. He appeared in 13 games last season, registering one interception on 12 defended passes. Howard also picked up 45 tackles (one for a loss) and one QB hit.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a natural destination should Howard become available. The Steelers' defensive backfield could use an upgrade. Levi Wallace and Joey Porter are solid — and Porter's on the upswing entering his sophomore season — but Howard has 17 interceptions over the last four years, including a historic 10-INT campaign in 2020, which saw him finish third in DPOY voting.
Miami needs to think long and hard about letting one of their most accomplished defenders walk, especially since defense is a point of weakness already. But, if the financial situation demands it, Howard could fall right into Mike Tomlin's lap.