One Guy Keeps Popping Up in Vikings Trade Theories

Jan 23, 2019; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Los Angeles Chargers defensive backs coach Ron Milus (left) talks with Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25)during AFC practice for the 2019 Pro Bowl at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL trade deadline is November 2, and the excitement around it has a lot of emphasis on the Miami Dolphins.

Embattled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson doesn’t want to play for his current franchise anymore, so the Dolphins are front and center for trade negotiations. Some credible media voices suggest Watson-to-Miami is close to fruition. We shall see – Watson carries a lot of unresolved baggage to a new team.

Watson isn’t the only trade-related personality in the Dolphins orbit. For much of the offseason, cornerback Xavier Howard was discontented about his standing with the team. Tension calmed before the regular season started, and Howard has played almost half the 2021 season with the Dolphins. But around the trade deadline, Howard heading elsewhere via trade ignited all over again.

And the Vikings are one of the franchises frequently listed as buyers of his services.

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) celebrates his second interception in 14 seconds in the second quarter of the game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Sunday, November 25, 2018. Indianapolis Colts Versus Miami Dolphins At Lucas Oil Stadium In Indianapolis.

Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson was injured in Week 6, canceling his involvement in the next three games. After Peterson, the Vikings depth chart at corner includes Cameron Dantzler, Bashaud Breeland, Mackensie Alexander, Harrison Hand, Kris Boyd, and maybe some practice squaders. It is debatable if that group will do the trick for the next three weeks. Probably – if the good versions Dantzler and Breeland are out in full force.

But if Minnesota wants to get deeper and better at cornerback – at a steep price – Howard could be their man.

On Thursday, CBS Sports detailed a trade each team should make before the deadline. Some are considered sellers. Others are buyers. Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports called the Vikings buyers and recommended a trade for Howard:

“They have a real path to the playoffs as a wild card, but it’ll take shoring up the back end of Mike Zimmer’s defense, which is without an injured Patrick Peterson. Before you pull the plug on the Zimmer regime, maybe give him one last shot with a proven cover man?”

The Xavien Howard idea is compelling. But the rumor is unlikely to materialize due to terms and conditions. Howard earns $15 million per year, and the Vikings don’t have cap space available to accommodate him at the moment. Perhaps during the offseason – extensions to players like Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter will provide 2022 cap hit relief — general manager Rick Spielman might find the funds to employ an All-Pro cornerback. Right now, though, it’s a longshot for a team not dripping with available cap space.

Also, it is unlikely the Vikings want to get rid of any more 2022 draft capital. Spielman traded a 4th-Rounder to the New York Jets for tight end Chris Herndon not long ago, and he doesn’t really have oodles of draft picks to spend. A Howard trade will necessitate a higher pick than the 4th Round. Would the Vikings really give up a 2nd or 3rd Rounder for a $15 million corner? Possible, not probable.

Howard is a fantastic football player, rest assured. If he’s traded anywhere, it will probably be to a team with ample cap space and a cache of 2022 draft picks. The Vikings don’t check either box.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).