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Cowboys trade for Xavien Howard? Could Dallas afford it?

Prior to the 2021 draft, many analysts believed that the Dallas Cowboys would end up taking one of the top corners in the draft. Most mock drafts had them selecting Patrick Surtain II out of Alabama, who ended up going to pick before to the Denver Broncos. We’ll never know what Dallas would have done if both Micah Parsons and Surtain II were available to them at the 10th pick. My guess is that their pick would remain unchanged.

They were able to partially address the corner position in the second round with the pick of Kelvin Joseph out of Kentucky, but they could sorely use additional help in the secondary to go along with second year corner Trevon Diggs and his rookie counterpart. An opportunity may be presenting itself to Jerry Jones to have the Cowboys trade for Xavien Howard and land one of the best corners in the league on the cusp of the training camp.

Why should the Cowboys trade for Xavien Howard?

Although when many Dallas fans hear about the Dolphins secondary they may immediately think of Byron Jones, Xavien Howard may in fact be Miami’s best player in that position group. Going strictly off 2020, Howard was one of the top producers at that position and his play was above and beyond Jones’ production. Howard posted a PFF of 87.3 with ten interceptions and 47 receptions on 90 targets. Jones’ PFF was 63.6 with 2 interceptions and 40 receptions on 61 targets.

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Some may argue that Howard benefits from playing alongside Jones, and is therefore pitted against more favorable matchups. They’ll point to his PFF in previous seasons as an example. I wouldn’t buy too much into this. Does Howard benefit from Jones in the secondary? Yes, but the opposite is true as well. Also, remember that the Dolphins not too long ago were considered far and away the worst team in football. Their defense was atrocious and it’s difficult for any corner to play well consistently when the defense was barren from any steady production.

Although the Dallas’ secondary was historically bad last season, this defense has immense talent. They have one of the best linebacker groups in the league and have talent like Diggs, Joseph, Keanu Neal, and Damontae Kazee in the secondary. Howard would not be on his own and instead would be a part of a talented collective group.

Let’s not forget, many of the teams Dallas will have to face on their way for a possible championship run possess well more than two talented receiving options. The Buccaneers deploy Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, and are getting back O.J. Howard from injury. Even the Giants now possess Kenny Golladay, Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, John Ross, and Darius Slayton. The Cowboys will need a deep and talented secondary to allow their defense to come close to matching their offense.

Can the Cowboys trade for Xavien Howard? What would it cost?

It’s tough to tell the compensation that would be required to pull off this deal, mainly because it’s still uncertain the pressure that Howard will exert on Miami to move him. As outlined in our article about a potential trade with the Cardinals, Miami does have the cap space to sign their corner to a new deal. They don’t necessarily have to part ways with him when looking at their cap. They did sign him to an extension just a couple of years ago, so they may be unwilling to renegotiate with him after such a short time. They also spend more on their secondary than any other team in the league. Spending even more may not be on their to-do list.

It would cost them at least a first-round pick and additional mid-round selection. However, this could be a potential trade where the Cowboys move on from Leighton Vander Esch. Brian Flores is from the New England system, which is known for using big, tackling-machine linebackers in the heart of the defense and Vander Esch fits that perfectly. It would not cost Miami much in return in terms of cap space and they would have the 5th year option on that rookie contract as well for 2022.

As per Spotrac, Dallas has just over $5 million in cap space left for 2021. Including Vander Esch in the trade would free up an additional $2 million.

As of his current deal, Howard counts for $13.5 million against the cap this season and between $12-14.5 million each of the next three seasons. The team is also projected to be roughly $30 million over the cap heading into 2022.

They do have quite a few key contracts that would be candidates to be re-worked now or even cut at the end of the season. Demarcus Lawrence and Amari Cooper count for $25 million and $22 million against the cap this year and are two of the most likely to be re-worked in this scenario to open up cap space. Either one could also be traded at the end of the year possibly as they continue to be in the top three for biggest cap hits on the team in 2022 and 2023. Demarcus Lawrence’s cap number over the next two seasons is $27 million and $29 million, while Cooper’s is $22 million in each year.

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