Dolphins to release CB Xavien Howard, longest-tenured player on team

The Dolphins informed cornerback Xavien Howard that they are releasing him at the start of the new league year on March 13, a league source told the Miami Herald, parting ways with one of the best players in franchise history and the team’s longest-tenured player.

Howard, 30, just completed his eighth NFL season after Miami selected him with the No. 38 overall pick in the 2016 Draft.

The move saves the Dolphins $18.5 million cap space but Miami won’t be able to use it until June 2 as it is a post-June 1 cut.

Since entering the league, Howard has been one of the NFL’s best shutdown corners. Howard’s 29 interceptions since 2016 are the most of any cornerback and tied for fourth-most in Dolphins history. During his time in Miami, Howard was named to the Pro Bowl four times and a one-time All-Pro selection in 2020.

“[Howard] makes every team in the national football league an instant contender. Lock down corners don’t hit the market often,” Howard’s agent, David Canter, wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Howard posted a photo of himself on Instagram shortly with the caption, “Dolphins legend” shortly after news broke.

Injuries, though, impacted Howard’s production in the last few years. In 2022, he struggled as he played through an injury to his groins. And in 2023, he missed four games and the final two, including the wild-card round loss to the Chiefs, because of a mid-foot sprain.

Howard’s contract situation also put him in peril of being cut. In April 2022, Howard signed a new five-year contract that gave him $50.69 million in new money. But there was no guaranteed money after the 2023 season. On locker cleanout day in January, Howard expressed reluctance to take a pay cut.

“It’s up in the air,” Howard said of his future. “My eight years here, I made the best of it. If this year is the last year, [if] I have to say goodbye to some of these guys here, I definitely understand.”

$4 million of Howard’s $15.4 million 2024 base salary would have been guaranteed on March 15. A $3 million roster bonus was also due on March 14.

A pre-June 1 cut would have given the Dolphins only $2.8 million to use at the start of the new league year with about $23 million in dead cap in 2024.

Cornerback seemingly becomes an offseason need for the Dolphins with no proven players behind Jalen Ramsey, who was named to the Pro Bowl after returning from a meniscus injury that sidelined him for the first seven games of the season. Kader Kohou, Cam Smith, Ethan Bonner and Keion Crossen are the other cornerbacks under contract for the 2024 season.

Kohou, who impressed as an undrafted rookie in 2022, struggled in his second season. Smith, a second-round pick in the 2023 Draft, only played 20 defensive snaps. Bonner, an undrafted rookie in 2023, played 25 defensive snaps in the regular season and playoffs. Crossen missed the entire season with an injury he sustained in training camp and is a possible cap casualty.

The Dolphins on Friday also informed defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah that they are releasing him. The move will save Miami about $13.7 million in cap space with a pre-June 1 designation.