The Minnesota Vikings enter the offseason with 17 total free agents, 13 unrestricted and 4 restricted. In addition to free agency however, the team also needs to look at the contract situations of a number of players who are still currently under contract.
When speaking on that subject, the most frequent name that has come up has been running back, Adrian Peterson and whether or not he will be with the team in 2017; a situation we have more clarity on now that the team has opted out of the final year of his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent. Another player whose contract situation is of high-priority is that of cornerback Xavier Rhodes, though for much different reasons than of his teammate.
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There’s no question that Rhodes has come into his own. He turned in his best season yet in 2016, finishing the year with a career-best five interceptions — the most for a Vikings’ cornerback in the past decade and more than double his career total. Despite missing the first two games of the season, Rhodes was largely dominant throughout the year, leading the NFL in passer rating against and catch rate allowed (39.2 and 41.8% respectively). He was named the NFC North division’s best defensive player by ESPN writers and was the NFL Network’s top-rated cornerback.
Over his first four seasons, Rhodes has grown into a Pro Bowl-caliber, shutdown corner, capable of taking away a team’s best receiver with little to any help. In the three seasons since head coach, Mike Zimmer’s arrival, Rhodes has evolved into the complete corner that the team envisioned when he was drafted 25th overall in 2013. This past year, fans watched him shut down the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Kelvin Benjamin, and DeAndre Hopkins. Over the previous two years, he had held Atlanta Falcons’ receiver, Julio Jones, in check in two head-to-head matchups.
There’s not much doubt that Rhodes is now a top corner in the NFL. The question now is how big of a payday will he receive. In the team’s recent history since Rick Spielman took over as general manager, the Vikings have done a good job of retaining players who have performed up to and above expectations and have got deals signed before starting the final year of their rookie contracts (i.e. Harrison Smith last offseason).
While Rhodes has clearly established himself as the best Viking in his draft class and elite level cover corners are few and far between, one would have to bet there’s a pretty good chance he’ll end up being one of, if not, the league’s highest paid cornerback when the 2017 season opens in September. Add the increase of the league salary cap to $167 million for 2017 and comparing the recent contracts for top level cornerbacks and don’t be shocked to hear Rhodes get an offer of around six to seven years for somewhere near $80 million.