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With a week to go until the window closes on trades and, as a practical matter, a couple of days for any players acquired in trade to be available for Week Nine, teams are talking about potential deals that can be done.

Some teams are talking publicly about deals that won’t be done.

The Dolphins, in response to a report from Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the team is “exploring trade offers” for cornerback Xavien Howard, have issued a statement.

“The report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel is factually inaccurate and based on rumors,” the Dolphins said. “The paper practiced poor journalism by not reaching out to the team for comment or the chance to respond prior to publishing the story. We are not exploring any trades regarding Xavien Howard.”

Kelly’s report was confirmed by Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald explains that he and colleague Adam Beasley “were told this morning that a couple teams have inquired about Xavien,” and that “[w]e spoke to the team and chose not to report until a fuller picture and details emerged about the likelihood of him actually being traded.”

In situations like this, accuracy definitely hinges on semantics. A team may not be affirmatively shopping a player, but teams may indeed be calling about the player. And if the team doesn’t immediately hang up the phone but instead listens to what the other team offers or suggests or hints at by way of a possible trade, the team is doing, well, something.

Maybe it’s listening. Maybe it’s receiving. Maybe it’s exploring.

The Dolphins could be telling the truth when they say they aren’t “exploring” trade offers for Howard. Really, what would there be to “explore” if other teams are calling and making offers known?

Above all else, the Dolphins need to create the impression that they aren’t motivated sellers. That’s the only way to ensure that they’ll have maximum leverage in any trade talks that may happen — and to preserve/repair the relationship with a player who could be upset if he thinks his team is trying to trade him.

Indeed, if Jackson and Beasley knew that teams were calling about Howard, there arguably was no reason to not report it; it would have been accurate. Frankly, it sounds like the Dolphins talked the Herald out of reporting it. (Yes, that happens frequently in this business, sometimes with express or side deals or implied understandings attached.)

Trading Howard now would trigger a $4.2 million cap charge in 2021. He signed his most recent contract, which at the time paid out a record amount per year in new money for the position, in 2019.

He’s signed through 2024, at a current salary of $11.9 million and upcoming salaries of $12.075 million (2021), $12.375 million (2022), $11.4 million (2023), and $11.65 million (2024).

Howard has four interceptions in six games for the 3-3 Dolphins.