Chris Perkins: Dolphins’ attitude toward Xavien Howard is a bit peculiar

Dolphins general manager Chris Grier’s comments on Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine raised some eyebrows.

Going a step further, Grier’s laudable open-mindedness toward Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard returning, presumably with a significant pay cut, piqued my curiosity. At season’s end, Howard sounded as though there’s absolutely, positively no way he’s returning at a reduced salary. He was adamant.

The Dolphins let it be known recently that they plan on releasing Howard with a post-June 1 designation. But now Grier is saying the Dolphins are leaving the door open for Howard to return?

That’s peculiar.

And then it got me thinking.

Where would you rather be for the 2024 season?

From afar, it sure seems that the Dolphins have adopted that phrase as a negotiating consideration, something for their players to ask themselves during the offseason.

It seems the Dolphins are being patient, giving a number of players a chance to breathe, so to speak. They’re giving them a chance to gauge the market, workplace, weather, proximity to the beach, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, the fact that there’s no state income tax, things along those lines.

The Dolphins might shake down some players for a pay cut.

The Dolphins might need one or two of their own free agents to return at market value or slightly less.

The Dolphins might need someone to accept a contract extension on team-friendly terms (a hometown discount).

They seem to be telling their players to look around and see what they have.

The reality is NFL life doesn’t get much better than South Florida.

The Dolphins have a player-friendly atmosphere, ushered in by forward-thinking coach Mike McDaniel. He’s almost a revolutionary guy in the sense he won’t rip you publicly, likes to have fun at his job, and allows players to be themselves while having fun.

It’s a positive, upbeat, enjoyable, rarely-seen NFL environment.

Yeah, because it’s the NFL, there are inherent pressures to win as a team and succeed individually.

But playing for the Dolphins and McDaniel isn’t the same as playing for those intense, grinding coaches that have you under constant mental strain and take subtle shots at you in the media. This is a different world.

Granted, the Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game in years but they should make the postseason and have a shot at a Super Bowl.

So, the Dolphins are asking players to ask themselves, “Where would you rather be for the 2024 season?”

These are the same Dolphins, by the way, who finished No. 1 in treatment of players in a league-wide survey conducted by the NFLPA this season.

Who’s on that list of players the Dolphins want to consider where they’d rather be in 2024?

Among potential free agents, primarily there’s defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, edge rusher Andrew Van Ginkel, center Connor Williams and right guard Robert Hunt.

Among guys seeking a contract extension (which would allow the Dolphins to significantly lower their 2024 salary cap number), there’s quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Wilkins.

Among guys under contract that the Dolphins might shake down for a pay cut, there’s Howard, linebacker Jerome Baker and left tackle Terron Armstead (who they restructured last season).

Among players under contract who the Dolphins might need to restructure (have owner Steve Ross write them a multi-million dollar bonus check to lower their 2024 salary cap number), there’s cornerback Jalen Ramsey, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, Armstead and edge rusher Bradley Chubb.

On Wednesday, Grier sounded as though he’s being patient.

On Howard, who the Dolphins plan on releasing with a post-June 1 designation: “ We’re going to stay in communication as the process goes and see what happens, and we left the door open for him possibly coming back here, too.”

On Wilkins, who Grier and McDaniel both said has earned the right to be a free agent: “I’m just being very transparent with it. He has earned it. He’s had a great season. So we’ll see what happens here as we talk over the next couple of weeks.”

On Williams, who is recovering from a season-ending knee injury: “He’s a free agent and we’ll see where that goes. We’re giving him the space and time. He just wanted to focus on rehabbing right now. But we’ll stay in touch with all those guys and see where it leads.”

On Hunt: “ We had some discussions with Robert’s representation in the middle of the season and completely respected his willingness to go to free agency. And again, I say that term, but he had earned the right and I love Robert. He’s a good kid. He works hard and he wants to be good.”

On Baker: “We’d love to have Baker here. I think the big thing for us was to have the new defensive staff come in, spend time watching the team, watching the defense as a staff together. Once we have those discussions with the defensive staff, Mike (McDaniel) will get together and then we’ll make that decision here in the next couple of weeks.”

The cash-challenged Dolphins need a few favors from players.

To me, it sounds as though the Dolphins are going to ask their players to ask themselves one question before making a decision.

Where else would you rather be?