Of all of the pieces of a young, talented Minnesota Vikings defense, perhaps none are more exciting than cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes has always been considered a cornerback on the rise, but he really put it all together in 2016.
According to NFL.com, Rhodes is no longer “on the rise.” By their measure, he can’t rise any higher.
In their recent listing of the best cornerbacks in the National Football League, Rhodes comes in at #1 overall.
At around the mid-season mark, the Vikings defense was widely regarded as the best unit in the NFL. Minnesota fell off its early-season pace, but still finished third in yards allowed and sixth in scoring defense. One player who never lost momentum was fourth-year cornerback Xavier Rhodes. 2016 saw the Vikings' top corner, always a solid player, join the elite group of NFL cornerbacks. Opposing quarterbacks targeted Rhodes 79 times in 14 games. It proved to be a fruitless endeavor, as Rhodes gave up an NFL-low 41.8 percent catch rate. In addition to not allowing plays to the opposition, he made plenty for the Vikings, as well. Rhodes picked off five passes this year, after registering just two in his first three seasons. One of his interceptions came against Carson Palmer and the Cardinals in Week 11. Rhodes ran the pick back for a touchdown and covered 121.03 yards of distance and clocked in at 22.4 miles per hour on the runback.
By the measure of the folks at NFL.com, Rhodes allowed a passer rating of 39.2. For comparison, if a quarterback took every snap during a game and fired the pass directly into the ground, they’d finish with a quarterback rating of 39.6.
(The picture above is for the Vikings as a whole, not Rhodes specifically.)
The big season came at the most opportune of times for Rhodes. He’s entering his fifth-year option, and this is generally right around the time that the Vikings lock up their younger players for the future. Thanks to his big season and the growth he’s shown under Mike Zimmer, he’s going to be in for a big payday.
According to the folks from Over the Cap, going into next season there are six cornerbacks in the NFL with a base salary of more than $10 million. (One of those is Darrelle Revis, who has fallen completely off of the map.) With the way Rhodes is going, such a figure might be a starting point for contract negotiations for his long-term future with the team. It’s going to be a hefty payout for Rhodes, but he’s earned it, and I’m confident that Rick Spielman and Rob Brzezinski will get him the maximum value and allow the Vikings to still have some flexibility.