Before the draft, my assessment of the 2021 Miami Dolphins defense was their secondary was their top unit and a big part of why the defense was a top rated defense in points allowed. Without a doubt, a huge part of that was the play of CB Xavien Howard. It wasn’t only the 10 INT’s, he would be one of the top 10 CB’s in the NFL without that, but those 10 turnovers vault him into top 3 territory. Think about that for a moment, teams regularly employ 3 CB’s, and sometimes as many as 5 or even 6. To be conservative, to be in the top 3 of say 48 CB’s is an accomplishment. It’s not only his great play alone too, his play makes it much easier for everyone else on the team to get their job done. He also has that uncanny ability to read the QB and jump throws which make him a very dangerous defensive player to challenge, although he was often challenged and he made QB’s pay.To me, it’s clear Howard doesn’t have long term confidence in his wary body so he wants to be paid now. Hard not to appreciate his circumstance even if it’s not great for the team to rip up a very lucrative contract signed just 2 seasons ago and pay him a boatload more. In my opinion though, I don’t have an issue with paying him this year and the next for two productive seasons and then having a parachute to get out without any cap hits after the next 2 seasons. I doubt Howard would take issue with that as long as he gets paid up front. I almost see that as a WIN-WIN.
If, say the Dolphins take a hard stance against their star CB Howard, it would almost certainly be last year’s 30th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, CB Noah Igbinoghene that would replace Howard. Last season Iggy was very limited in what they allowed him to do, playing time was sparse playing only 28% of the snaps on defense. The reason was two fold though, it seemed as if last year Flores and the defensive coaches wanted Igbinoghene to concentrate on playing the boundary rather than insert him in at the slot playing inside. He also struggled in limited time against one of the league’s best WR’s Stefon Diggs, which was a lot to ask. From my recollection, his coverage was not poor against Diggs, it was more Allen making some pinpoint throws in which Iggy had pretty good coverage on. In any case, they clearly didn’t feel he was ready for prime time last season, but has that changed in 2021? Do the Dolphins feel that removing one of the best CB’s in the NFL and replacing him with an untested 2nd year player against a division in which each team has improved offensively is the right way to go?
Let’s look at how the AFC East has evolved and changed from 2020 to 2021. The Patriots drafted Mac Jones with pick #15 in the 2021 NFL Draft. He will compete with Cam Newton for the starting spot. In addition, the patriots quietly fortified their receiving corps bringing in Kendrick Bourne from San Francisco and Nelson Agholor from the Las Vegas Raiders who will join promising WR N’Keal Harry (2019 pick #30) and Jakobi Meyers (Not the law firm). A modest upgrade but if Mac Jones can play like Justin Herbert did last season or even Joe Burrow (minus the injury), they can and should be a better offense. The Jets made offense a priority in2021, drafting QB Zach Wilson with the 2nd pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and following that pick up with OT Alijah Vera-Tucker, then WR Elijah Moore and then RB Michael Carter. 4 picks in rounds 1 and 2 ALL on offense. The Jets were dreadful last year, you have to expect them to be better although they are putting all their eggs in one basket by clearly handing over the reins to rookie QB Zach Wilson. With QB’s Mike White and James Morgan the only other QB’s on the roster, the Jets are putting quite a lot of pressure on the young QB. They do have a nice receiving corps though with Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder, and in FA in 2021 they added former Tennessee Titans WR Corey Davis who had his career best season last year with just a shade under 1000 yards averaging a nice 15.1 YPR. If Zach Wilson is for real, the Jets should be considerably better in 2021. The Bills already had one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, 2nd in the NFL in scoring at 31.3 PPG. The Bills stayed pat with what they had on offense and doubled down on defense for 2021. In summation, this division may have gotten more difficult to defend.
No question we shored up our LB corps with the addition of Benardrick McKinney and the drafting of potential pas rushing star Jaelan Phillips, and drafting safety Jevon Holland in RD 2. It also should not be overlooked that we added S Jason McCourty as well as nickelback Justin Coleman, formerly of the Patriots, Seahawks and Lions. Still, losing Howard after all those moves is a huge gamble. I’m not sure how things will play out and whether the holdout will either force a trade or if the holdout can last through the season. My choice for resolution is clear, frontload the contract so you hopefully get what you pay for in the next 2 seasons, make Howard happy, and then easily be able to cut him painlessly for the cap if his health depreciates along with his play. An extensive holdout possibly lasting through the season helps neither party and a trade only helps the future, not the present team.