The 2024 NFL offseason is underway. Teams are congregating in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine, where the groundwork for potential deals begins to get laid as teams scout the next wave of stars. Some moves are already beginning to trickle in as teams juggle their cap sheet and prepare for free agency and the draft. One of those moves was announced earlier: the Miami Dolphins plan to release star cornerback Xavien Howard. The move was primarily a financial one, as the Dolphins save $18.5 million by cutting Howard, which helps pave the way for an extension for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. But this presents teams across the NFL an opportunity to land a true difference maker on the defensive side of the ball. It would make sense for two teams in particular to go hard after Howard: the Detroit Lions and the Washington Commanders.

Detroit Lions

Xavien Howard in a Lions uniform

There probably isn't a team in the NFL who could use a shutdown corner more than the Detroit Lions. That could not have been more evident in their playoff run to the NFC Championship Game. During the Wild Card Round, they got absolutely torched by Matthew Stafford and Puka Nacua, with the latter going for 181 yards and a touchdown while catching nine of his ten targets, including a 50-yard touchdown bomb.

The next week was the same song being sung by a different singer. This time it was Mike Evans lighting the Lions' secondary up. Evans wound up with a 147-yard, one touchdown performance in the divisional round against Detroit after hauling in eight of the 12 targets slung in his direction.

This was an issue all season long for the Lions. They ranked 25th in the NFL in EPA allowed per dropback; the only teams below them were the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, and Washington Commanders. The Eagles were the only other team of that group to even make the playoffs, and they got waxed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card round. The Lions made the NFC Championship and almost won it. If that big Brandon Aiyuk reception off of a Lions' corner's helmet goes the other way, maybe the Lions do in fact win that game.

Perhaps Xavien Howard makes that play. He has three seasons in his career with at least five interceptions in a season; Lions cornerbacks had five interceptions all season in 2023 (Brian Branch and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson are listed as safeties but do play in the slot as corners often). Howard is about to turn 31-years-old, not the age a team would want their best corner to be. But he can still play and he could help the Lions exponentially.

Washington Commanders

If there was another team that needed a corner as badly as the Lions, it would be the Commanders. Their defensive scheme did not help them very much, but they ended the 2023 season with the worst mark in terms of EPA allowed per dropback in the NFL. No team was worse defending the pass than the Commanders last season.

The Commanders do have some talent at corner. Kendall Fuller has been a solid pro for a while. Emmanuel Forbes was a first-round pick a year ago, but he struggled mightily as a rookie. Howard would still step in and immediately be their number one corner. Though he is getting up there in age, new head coach Dan Quinn could be the guy to help mitigate that. Stephon Gilmore played incredibly well for the Dallas Cowboys last season despite being 33 years of age.

The Commanders also have a ton of money at their disposal. They lead the NFL in salary cap space with over $96 million to use. If they want Xavien Howard, they can pay up to get him. Not only should they want him, but they need him. This would be a great fit for both sides.