If you thought the past two Miami Dolphins offseasons were a wild ride and this one will be relatively calm by contrast, well, you probably weren’t paying attention Sunday.
Around noon, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen put out a thread of tweets to his two million followers in which he ultimately tied Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson’s future to the Miami Dolphins in a trade that included Miami starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
And although this was not an ironclad news report but “informed speculation” by its own admission, it lit things up a little bit.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross heard about it.
The Dolphins saw the tweet.
And it basically put the team at the center of a rumor mill it has no desire being part of for multiple reasons. (More on that in a minute).
Then in the evening, South Florida agent David Canter announced on Twitter he now represents Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard.
And that is fact.
It is actual news instead of speculation.
And it promises drama in the coming months.
Because the Herald reported on Dec. 22 that Howard wants to renegotiate a contract he signed in 2019 and still has four full seasons remaining before expiring. And he wants to do that this offseason.
Howard picking his third agent in three years and one that has engaged in uncomfortable negotiations with the team in the past — including the Olivier Vernon talks that eventually led to Vernon signing a record contract with the New York Giants — raises the potential for fireworks.
And how does anyone know this?
Because, a source close to Howard said Canter was in the running to represent Howard prior to his extension in 2019. At that time, the agent told Howard early deals often do not hold up, and that is now the case.
Howard, the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback when he signed the deal, is not even in the top five now. He’s not even the highest-paid cornerback on his own team, a distinction held by teammate Byron Jones.
Howard, meanwhile, led the NFL with 10 interceptions.
So, the source close to Howard said he’s at the very least going to demand making more than Jones and very possibly could demand being made the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL — a spot currently held by Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who makes $20 million per season on average compared to Howard’s $15 million per season.
Howard is said to be happy staying with the Dolphins and that could be the approach initially. But Canter has shown no misgivings about leading some of his Dolphins clients to other teams, as he did with cornerback Sean Smith, defensive lineman Paul Soliai and Vernon.
And, the source said, Howard and Canter are not ruling out a holdout from the Dolphins’ offseason programs and camps to make their case, although that will not be their preference.
These two important issues coming to the forefront in one day seem unrelated but the rumor mill immediately began to tie Howard, a Houston native, to the Houston Texans as part of an exchange that would bring Watson to the Dolphins.
And this is where the facts need to matter:
Fact 1: The Houston Texans do not wish to trade Watson.
“I think the most important thing for us is to speak specifically to Deshaun,” new Houston general manager Nick Caserio said at his introductory news conference. “I say from afar, the respect and admiration that I have for him as a player and what he’s done for this organization is significant. He’s our quarterback.
“Quite frankly, he’s a big reason why over the last two seasons we faced the Texans, that New England came out on the losing side of the ledger ... When the appropriate time comes, we’ll sit and spend some time with Deshaun. We’re certainly looking forward to the opportunity to work with him.”
Fact 2: It is true, as has been reported by several news outlets, that Watson has been disappointed by the direction of the Houston franchise and the manner in which its coaching search has so far been conducted.
Fact 3: It is true that if Caserio wanted to trade Watson, the first thing he would say is he doesn’t wish to do that. Saying he’s willing to unload the face of the franchise, who happens to be among the league’s most dynamic quarterbacks, is practically a career killer and would do unspeakable damage to the Texans’ brand.
Fact 4: Watson is a great — not good, but great — leader and person. Everyone in the Texans organization respects him. And no one expects him to react with the type of anger and vitriol needed to turn the situation sour and make the Texans want to trade him. The Texans thus believe they can “smooth over” the current situation.
All that strongly suggests Watson will remain in Houston. As one Dolphins source familiar with ownership’s thinking said Sunday, “there’s nothing to see here and nothing that has to do with the Miami Dolphins.”
And then there’s this: The Dolphins find themselves in a delicate situation because they made a public and unequivocal commitment to Tagovailoa as their 2021 starting quarterback last week.
They haven’t changed their mind, per the source.
And even if they were to change their mind at some point in the future, because Watson would be an obvious upgrade over Tagovailoa, that’s not a topic the Dolphins want in the public right now.
This is not what will catch the imagination of fans. They want to chew on the juicy possibility that a great quarterback trade is coming, particularly since the Dolphins would get the more talented quarterback out of the trade.
Fans would also be interested in the possibly such a trade might include Miami’s best player in Howard.
But such a blockbuster is not brewing right now.
But, of course, the offseason is quite young.