Philadelphia Eagles: A Xavien Howard trade could fix Philly’s CB woes

((Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
((Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Despite having a surplus of young talent at the position, a trade for Miami Dolphins DB Xavien Howard would fix the Philadelphia Eagles’ cornerback conundrum once and for all.

The Philadelphia Eagles have a cornerback problem.

It’s not like they don’t have a lot of cornerbacks – they may actually have too many – but are any of them any good?

That, my friends, is the $14 million question.

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With five players currently on the roster with starting experience – six if you count IR nickelback Cre’von LeBlancHowie Roseman has procured talent in pretty much every possible way from the draft to free agency, to the waiver wire to trade, but are any of those players a true number one?

Of the crew, the closest is probably Ronald Darby, but he’s on a one-year, $8.5 million deal and far from a lock to earn a long-term contract. The same goes for Philly fan favorite Jalen Mills, only he’s yet to even practice for the Eagles in 2019 and is currently trapped on the Pup list with a foot injury. From there, the Birds have three young corners on rookie contracts in Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones, and Rasul Douglas; a trio of players who could be full-time starters on most teams, but all have deficiencies that could limit their ultimate ceilings.

Maddox is too short at 5-foot-9 to be a week-in and week-out starter on the outside. Jones has all the pedigree to be a franchise cornerstone, but he’s yet to really dominate on the outside and hasn’t picked off a pass in 384 defensive snaps. Douglas, on the other hand, has picked off five balls in 1022 defensive snaps, but he’s incredibly slow, and that lack of speed on the outside kills (more on that here).

No, if the Eagles want to really take things over the top, and secure their postseason potency for years to come, they need to find a true number one corner to shadow opposing receivers on an island one-on-one.

And hey, if that player isn’t on the roster, why not make a trade for one?

After suffering a horrible 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, news broke that several players on the Miami Dolphins – mostly on the defensive end – wanted a trade out-of-town to avoid wasting their primes in a potentially endless rebuild.

While we may never know which players exactly requested such a deal, one would have to assume Xavien Howard wasn’t too happy with how the first game of his fourth NFL season went down – especially after signing a (kind of) record-breaking five-year, $72.25 million extension.

Now typically, teams aren’t going to flip a player they extended not six months prior to a five-year extension regardless of the package, but there’s a very real chance Howard’s timetable doesn’t line up with that of the Dolphins, regardless of his questionable fit in new head coach Brian Flores’ man press scheme.

Sure, Jim Schwartz likes to press his corners in man from time to time, but he also loves ball-hawking zone corners who fit for the ball like it’s theirs, and Howard does that batter than pretty much any CB in the league.

Since being selected in 38th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft out of Baylor – a Big 12 maven hardly known for their defensive acumen – Howard has picked off 11 balls in 36 games – including a league-leading seven in 2018 alone.

Just for context, the Eagles only had 10 picks in 2018 as a team, and that was split over seven different players.

Though Howard isn’t a perfect player, as he’ll look like Darrell Revis one game, and Cary Williams the next, at 26-years-old, the talent is there with the potential to become among the best cornerbacks in the entire NFL if placed in a scheme that plays to his strengths.

That tantalizing combination of talent and potential is exactly what the Eagles should target in a trade.

Another deceptive benefit of trading for Howard now is his contract status – yes, seriously.

On paper, the idea of freeing up $15 odd million midway through the season would be a tough task for even a good GM, but fortunately, the Eagles wouldn’t have to pay that much now or moving forward for Howard’s services.

You see, of the $72.25 million given out to Howard and his agent, $7 million was guaranteed at signing. That means, if the Eagles were to pull off a deal for Howard, they would only have to pay him about $8.2 million in 2019, and $7.725 million in 2020 – a bargain when compared to the $13-plus million a season paid out to players like Josh Norman, Stephon Gilmore, and Patrick Peterson.

Furthermore, Howard’s deal is structured in such a way that he can be released with very minimal dead money on the cap before the 2022 season – $2.8 million to be exact. So besides being an ideal fit in Schwartz’s off-heavy scheme, Howard’s deal is fairly team-friendly when you view it as a signing bonus-less three-year deal.

What won’t be team-friendly, however, is the Dolphins’ required compensation to let their franchise cornerback desert South Beach.

Is Howard worth a first-round pick? A first-round pick and Rasul Douglas? A first-round pick, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones? Even more? Frankly, I’m not a GM, but from this humble writer’s perspective, I’d rather have one legitimate number one starting cornerback on the team over an excessive crew of youngsters who may never reach that same level.

Rasul Douglas’ (lack of) speed kills. dark. Next

Ultimately, there’s no way of knowing whether or not Howie Roseman and company have any interested in trading for a star cornerback this early in the season – or if the Miami Dolphins want to trade their lone remaining star player to trigger a full-on rebuild – but if the Philadelphia Eagles do want to add a long-term piece with legitimate superstar traits, they should think long and hard about making an offer they can’t refuse for Xavien Howard.