Xavien Howard has progressed from a second-round pick into one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, and the Dolphins proved Thursday they recognize his value.
The 2018 Dolphins MVP and Pro Bowl starter agreed to a contract that soon will become official. Multiple reports indicated the deal was for five years with a value of $76.5 million with $46 million guaranteed, which would make him the highest-paid cornerback in the league. Howard was heading into the final season of his rookie contract.
He is coming off one of the best seasons ever by a Dolphins cornerback. Howard tied for the NFL lead with seven interceptions — despite missing the final four games because of a knee injury.
Appropriately enough, he was injured during an interception return against the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 2. It was his second interception of the game and his second consecutive two-interception game after he also had two picks against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts the previous week.
Howard had a third two-pick game, that one coming against the Oakland Raiders in Week 3. His second interception that day came in the end zone when the Dolphins were clinging to a 21-17 lead late in the fourth quarter. They put the game away on the following play with an 80-yard shovel pass scored by Albert Wilson.
Despite the injury, Howard joined Jalen Ramsey of the Jacksonville Jaguars as an AFC starting cornerback in the Pro Bowl.
According to Pro Football Focus, Howard allowed opposing quarterback a meager 62.6 passer rating when targeted last season, the second-best mark in the NFL.
Howard also could have had a case for the Pro Bowl in 2017 when he also had four interceptions, again with back-to-back two-pick games. One of those helped the Dolphins defeat the New England Patriots in a Monday night game at Hard Rock Stadium.
It should be noted that the Dolphins liked Howard enough that they gave the Baltimore Ravens a fourth-round pick that year for the chance to move up from the 42nd overall slot.