The Vikings’ defense finished 2016 ninth in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), third in yards allowed per game, and sixth in points allowed per game. In short, Minnesota boasted a pretty strong defense, and there is a lot of credit to go around for that performance.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes deserves a great deal of that credit. Rhodes, whom the Vikings selected in the first round of the 2013 draft, turned in the best season of his career in 2016, which earned him his first Pro Bowl nod. Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics were fairly kind to his overall effort, as Rhodes graded out as the 29th-best corner in the league out of 111 qualified players, but PFF really loved his performance against the run, where he graded as the top CB in football. Whatever issues he had in coverage he helped to make up for with his five interceptions, one of which he returned 100 yards for a score.
Minnesota picked up Rhodes’ fifth-year option last year, so he is currently under contract through 2017, and he is set to earn a tidy $8.026MM this season. But that doesn’t mean Rhodes wouldn’t be open to a long-term deal, and the Vikings do have a history of signing key players to extensions during contract years. Indeed, we heard back in February that the team was expected to begin negotiating a new contract with Rhodes, and while there have been no public reports of such negotiations, it does not appear that either side has put a deadline on contract talks. As such, it could be that a deal gets hammered out at some point during the season.
Former NFL agent Joel Corry says Desmond Trufant‘s recent extension with the Falcons could serve as a barometer for Rhodes’ negotiations with Minnesota. Trufant, whose total contract value is currently the third-highest in the league among cornerbacks — and who was drafted three picks ahead of Rhodes — pulled down a five-year, $68.75MM deal from Atlanta, including $41.53MM in guaranteed money. In addition to being just about the same age, Trufant and Rhodes are similarly talented players, both solid in coverage and stout against the run, so it would not be a surprise to see Rhodes land a contract that matches or exceeds Trufant’s pact.
Since he became a full-time starter in 2014, Rhodes has also been pretty durable. He started all 16 regular-season contests in 2014 and 2015, and after missing the first two weeks of 2016 with a knee injury, he started and finished the remaining 14 games. The Vikings have about $13.5MM in cap space at the moment (under the Rule of 51), so theoretically they could even front-load a Rhodes extension to give themselves some wiggle room down the road. In any event, expect to see Rhodes and fellow Pro Bowler Harrison Smith sharing Minnesota’s defensive backfield for the next few years.
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