Why did the Dolphins release Xavien Howard? Cap issues, injury concerns spell end of cornerback’s career in Miami

The Dolphins will reportedly bid adieu to star cornerback Xavien Howard at the start of the next league year, spelling an end to a glittering Miami career that featured four Pro Bowl selections and a third-place Defensive Player of the Year finish in 2020.

The news was first reported by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and Peter Schrager on Friday. 

Howard is the longest-tenured member of Miami’s roster, and will hold that title until March 13, when the new league year begins. The Dolphins are expected to make the move official that day.

Howard slotted in as one of the organization’s greatest-ever defensive backs, racking up 29 interceptions during his eight year spell in Vice City — fourth-most in Fins history.

Here’s what you need to know.

Why did the Dolphins release Xavien Howard?

The answer, as is the case in NFL circles, has to do with money. Howard’s contract — chocked full of bonuses and incentives — would cost Miami $25.9 million if they were to keep him on the roster next campaign.

Some of those bonuses were set to be activated on March 15 — two days after the NFL calendar restarts. The Dolphins were on the hook for $7 million if Howard retained his place in the secondary when March 15 hit.

His absence will be a sizable one. But it’s one both parties have been considering for some time. Howard saw his 2023 come to a premature end after suffering a left foot injury. As such, both team and player were able to witness just how the franchise would perform without him suited up.

Howard seemed to know the writing was on the wall, as well. It’s been suggested that Miami has to offload $50 million in cap money to be compliant with NFL rules ahead of March 13. With the Dolphins expected to keep defensive tackle Christian Wilkins with a franchise tag if they’re unable to renegotiate a longer-term deal, that number could very well be higher.

“It’s up in the air,” Howard said of his future at the end of the season. “At the end of the day it’s a business also. My eight years here, I’ve made the best of it. If this year is the last year and I have to say goodbye to some of the guys here I understand. It’s a part of the business. No matter where I go, I’m still going to do my thing.”

Howard wasn’t the only Miami stalwart the team intends to let go. Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah was released Friday, the team announced. Neither Howard nor Ogbah had been mentioned during newly-minted defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver’s introductory press conference earlier in the month.

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