Xavien Howard opted to show up at the Dolphins’ voluntary minicamp this week as he and the Dolphins continue discussions about a lucrative new contract.
Howard is entering the final year of his contract, but the Dolphins could place the franchise tag on him next March if they do not reach a multiyear agreement before then. The Dolphins have prioritized keeping Howard.
The Dolphins and Howard’s camp remain in ongoing discussions, and the Dolphins have made an offer, according to a team source. But it’s believed the sides still have work to do to reach a deal.
Asked if the sides are close to a new deal, Howard said: “My agent [Damarius Bilbo] is handling that business. I’m here taking care of my thing on the field.”
Asked if it pleases him that the Dolphins would like to keep him, he said: “Oh yeah. I am here today. I am just here getting better and help my team win.”
Asked why he came to the voluntary minicamp without a new contract, he said: “New staff, new guys, just want to build as a team. We’re trying to build on what the new staff [wants] and be all on the same page.”
Is it his preference to get a multiyear deal done this offseason?
“I’m here today,” he answered. “We’ll see how it goes from there.”
Howard was guarded in his comments on Tuesday but said in late December that he would like to be the league’s highest paid cornerback.
“I think I deserve it,” Howard told the Miami Herald on Dec. 30 after the season finale in Buffalo. “My numbers speak for themselves. Yes, I want to be paid like the best corner in the league.”
Right now, Washington’s Josh Norman has that designation. He signed a five-year, $75 million contract with the Redskins in 2016.
Howard is scheduled to make $1.3 million in the final year of his rookie contract.
He had seven interceptions in 12 games last season and 11 in his last 17 games. He missed the final month of last season with a knee injury but played in the Pro Bowl – intercepting Dallas’ Dak Prescott in the game - and is fully healthy now.
Center Daniel Kilgore, who missed the final 12 games last season with a torn triceps, was back practicing Tuesday and said he’s fully recovered.
But several other players who also finished the season on injured reserve were not participating in practice: receivers Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson, cornerback Cordrea Tankersley and linebacker Chase Allen.
Linebacker Mike Hull, who ended the season healthy, was also not spotted on the field on Tuesday.
Coach Brian Flores confirmed Grant and Wilson were still making their way back from lower-body surgeries, but declined to elaborate on other injuries, saying he wouldn’t comment on them until injury reports are released five days before the regular-season opener.
That’s reminiscent of Flores’ former boss, Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Safety Reshad Jones did not attend the voluntary practice for reasons that he and his agent, Joel Segal, declined to disclose. (Flores said his offseason shoulder surgery was among the reasons for his absence but declined to explain the others or say if Jones has asked for a trade.)
Asked about Jones’ absence, Howard said: “I have no problem with that. I’m just worried about the guys that are here.”
OFFENSIVE LINE IN FLUX
The Dolphins intend to add a starting right tackle, among other offensive linemen, in the next two months.
For Tuesday’s first practice, players confirmed that Zach Sterup lined up as the first-team right tackle opposite left tackle Laremy Tunsil, with Kilgore at center and Jesse Davis and former Jaguars player Chris Reed as the starting guards.
There are only four other offensive linemen currently on the roster: guards Isaac Asiata and Michael Dunn, second–year center Connor Hilland and tackle Joey Jones-Smith.
Dunn and Jones-Smith signed with Miami last week from the defunct Alliance of American Football.
Tunsil said the line naturally needs time to be put be together.
“It takes time, guys,” he said. ‘We’re just starting to rebuild. It’s only April.”
When Tunsil learned Ja’Wuan James had left for a four-year, $50 million contract with Denver, was his first reaction sadness about losing his friend and teammate or happiness for James?
“Both,” he said. “He got that bag [of money], yes he did.”
How does Miami replace him? “Damn good question,” Tunsil said. “Ask coach Flo about that one.”
On Flores, Tunsil said: “He’s a good dude. Great guy, came from a great program, the Patriots. He’s looking pretty good so far.”
THIS AND THAT
Flores, on why the team added seven players from the Alliance of American Football: “The guys we brought in had some success in that league. They’re good players, good people. They will have an opportunity to show what they can do. If they can help this team win games [they’ll play].”
The highest regarded of the seven is linebacker Jayrone Elliott, who had four sacks in 38 games for Green Bay and received $75,000 guaranteed.
▪ Flores, on his first practice as an NFL head coach: “This enters a phase I enjoy the most. Today is a special day for me. I’m passionate about coaching football.”
Unlike other NFL franchises, teams with new head coaches are permitted to hold a three-day April voluntary minicamp.
Flores said this would be “a teaching camp. It’s fundamentals. It’s technique. The basic elements of football.”
This week’s practices are closed to the media except for the first 20 minutes, which is largely stretching and individual work.