It’s no secret around the NFL that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers desperately need more help for an injury-plagued secondary.
The Bucs could shoot for the moon and go after Miami Dolphins All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard. On July 27, he surfaced as a highly speculated trade target after announcing his displeasure with his contract, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Miami never traded the 28-year-old before the start of the 2021 season and he has continued producing through the team’s first six games, tallying 19 tackles, six pass deflections, an interception and a forced fumble.
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Here’s How the Bucs Could Acquire Howard
Tampa Bay trading for Howard would take the kind of salary cap mastery general manager Jason Licht showed during the offseason, bringing back all 22 starters from the Super Bowl LV squad. Voidable years in contracts, such as Tom Brady and Lavonte David’s extensions, made that happen.
Howard’s Dolphins contract has a salary cap hit of $15.1 million but only $12.0 million guaranteed, according to Over The Cap. The Dolphins have paid Howard a significant portion of his contract already. Teams pay players “over 36 weeks as opposed to the 17” before this season according to Schefter.
The Bucs currently have $3.1 million in cap space, per Over The Cap. It would take satisfying an estimated $12.2 million of Howard’s salary, based on seven weeks being paid, to avoid needing the Dolphins’ help in eating the cost after Week 7.
Tampa Bay tight end O.J. Howard and his $6 million contract could clear the cap space to $3.1 million a trade. Bleacher Report’s Chris Roling suggested moving the Bucs’ second tight end for a defensive back, proposing Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler instead of Howard.
The Bucs only need to pick another player — or possibly more — to fit Howard under the cap with minimal help from the Dolphins. The Athletic’s Mike Sando mentioned Bucs safety Mike Edwards as a potential trade candidate but with the Kansas City Chiefs instead of the Dolphins. Edwards, a second-string player, has a salary of $1.0 million this season.
Miami likely will need to absorb some of Howard’s contract in addition to games played before a trade with Tampa Bay. The Bucs could also trade draft picks in lieu of a second or third player, and those picks could be as high as the first or second round in 2022, according to Pro Football Network.
Bucs Fan Interest in Howard Is Favorable, Minus the Salary Cap
A majority of fans desired to see a move for Howard with 41% answering yes and 32% acknowledging cap space as the issue in Bucs Nation’s fan survey.
While Howard will come at a steep price, Bucs Nation’s forecast of backup corners such as Ross Cockrell playing more due to injured starters came true by September.
Tampa Bay’s list of defensive backs sustaining injuries already this season includes Richard Sherman, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean and Antoine Winfield Jr. Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead also dealt with an injury amid the season starting before returning in Week 3.