Does a Xavien Howard trade make sense for the 49ers?

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard prepares to warm up during NFL football practice, Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

On Tuesday, cornerback Xavien Howard requested a trade from the Miami Dolphins.

There are a number of teams across the NFL that are in need of building depth at the position. Among those teams are the 49ers, but does a big move like this make sense for them?

At first glance, the cornerback position appears to be well stocked for the 49ers. They have two corners with starting experience lined up. Jason Verrett had a terrific season last year, and Emmanuel Moseley is back. In addition, they used third- and fifth-round draft picks on Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir.

The issue with that group is health. Verrett is now entering his seventh season in the NFL. To this point, he has been able to play at least 13 games in a season on only two occasions, 2015 as a member of the Chargers and last season.

Like Verrett, Moseley has yet to show the ability to stay healthy. He was injured in his NFL debut against the Oakland Raiders in 2018 and struggled again with injuries in 2020. In three NFL seasons, Moseley has a high of only 576 snaps in a season.

If Verrett or Moseley go down, as has already happened in training camp with Moseley being placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 list, San Francisco would be forced to play either one of the two previously mentioned rookies, Tim Harris Jr or veteran Dontae Johnson. While hopes are high that Thomas or Lenoir can become starters, they have yet to show that ability on an NFL field.

It would likely take something like second- and fifth-round selections in the 2022 draft to acquire Howard if San Francisco decided to make a move.

San Francisco would also need to rework Howard’s contract to make it fit under the salary cap, something the team could do by converting a portion of his salary to a signing bonus similar to what the team did for the new contract signed recently by Fred Warner.

Another thing to consider here is the draft capital being given up. The 49ers currently do not have a first-round selection next season, and giving up their second-round pick would mean they wouldn’t have a pick until round three.

Making a move for Howard would make sense for the 49ers, especially if they expect there will be an opportunity to get a second-round pick down the road when they trade a player of their own. Perhaps one that will also free up more than enough cap space to limit the impact of Howard’s salary.

Jack Hammer is a lifelong 49ers fan who shares insights on the team and leads discussions on all football and team topics. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackHammer_NFL and subscribe to his YouTube Channel, YouTube.com/c/JackHammer49.

This article has 6 Comments

  1. Looks as though Howard has come down with the same injury Ramsey did prior to his trade.

    Yea, they could trade Jimmy before the deadline to the Texans to offset a trade for Howard, but it seems to me that would go against their philosophic approach defensively. If the pass rush is good, the coverage should be. Warner is similar to a cb in coverage. I’m gonna say they they don’t make a move for Howard and instead bring in a cheap vet as insurance. I believe Dre Kirkpatrick is working out for them as we type.

  2. Jack, glad to see you writing for PD. Enjoyed your insights in the comments for years while Grant was writing here. Think you will do great.

    The 49ers should absolutely bring in Howard if they can get him. The corner back position is one area that the Niners have always struggled at. We have not shown the ability to bring in young talent and coach them to be quality starters. When we face off against a dominant or top tier wide receiver (Hopkins/Metcalf) they feast on our week secondary. Sherman coming to us from Seattle, even later in his career, showed that the defense as a whole can greatly improve when we have reliable corner play.

    We have been relying on our defensive front to provide the pressure to take off the strain for our DBs. Unfortunately our line production is tied to a few players who are oft injured. Should we see out line production drop, our weakness at corner will be made even more evident. We need a multiyear reliable starter at CB if we hope to make repeated post season appearances.

  3. Personally I think the Dolphins should feel pretty annoyed with Howard. His contract already makes him one of the highest paid CBs in the NFL (6th highest currently on annual average), and he only signed the contract 2 years ago. I get that a large part of Howard’s beef is around guarantees, but still, it isn’t like he is being severely undervalued. And his comment that he is the second highest paid CB on his team and “it isn’t even close” is also a bit on the nose for me – he’s basically telling his teammates he doesn’t believe Jones deserves to be paid as much as him and Jones is only getting paid $7M more than Howard in total over the course of their respective five year contracts, so it actually is pretty close.

    Is that what the 49ers want to trade for? A player that will gripe if he isn’t the highest paid at his position?

    The 49ers already have a lot of money committed moving forward, and some other big contracts they will need to work out in the near future. Howard would be great, but I wouldn’t try too hard to get him.

  4. I wonder if the current foot issue that Wentz has might lead to an opportunity to ship Jimmy G. to the Colts.

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