DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins are making young star Xavien Howard the NFL's highest-paid cornerback with a five-year, $76.5 million deal that has $46 million guaranteed, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Howard will make $51 million over the first three seasons of his new deal, a source said.
This move takes care of Howard, the cornerstone of Miami's defense, and sends a strong message to a rebuilding roster that Dolphins general manager Chris Grier is willing to pay young players in their prime.
Howard, 25, is coming off his first Pro Bowl season. He was the NFL's co-interception leader with seven in just 12 games.
The man known to his teammates as "X" has 11 interceptions over his past 17 games, establishing himself as one of the NFL's best ball-hawking cornerbacks.
Negotiations between the Dolphins and Howard's agents have been ongoing over the past few months. Grier and vice president of football administration Brandon Shore satisfied Howard's wishes, caught the eye of the team's best players by taking care of one of its most respected players and retained flexibility to still make big moves in free agency and the draft in 2020.
Miami has 10 draft picks (12 including projected compensatory picks) and may have close to $100 million in cap space to start the 2020 league year.
The Dolphins can now turn their eyes to locking up their extremely talented left tackle Laremy Tunsil either this offseason or the next.
At the Pro Bowl, Howard told ESPN that he wanted to be Miami's franchise player, and at the end of the 2018 season, he said he wanted to be the NFL's highest-paid cornerback.
This deal accomplishes both objectives. He becomes Miami's highest-paid player and has surpassed Washington cornerback Josh Norman, who had been the NFL's highest-paid cornerback, signing a five-year, $75 million deal with $36.5 million guaranteed in 2016.
Howard was entering the final year of his rookie deal. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound cornerback certainly exceeded expectations after the Dolphins selected him in the second round of the 2016 draft out of Baylor.
The new deal sets a slightly higher standard for the top end of a cornerback market that has been stagnant since Norman's deal.
The Dolphins were quiet in free agency, but a draft weekend splash to add Josh Rosen and the Howard extension show they are trying to compete in the short term and especially in the long term.