During his stint in Minnesota, Xavier Rhodes drew the brunt of lots of criticism. Specifically, the 2019 season was a bad one for him. The season was capped off by him allowing 49ers receivers to catch four of five targets thrown his way for 45 yards and a touchdown during the divisional round of the playoffs. In March, many Vikings fans were happy to see the soon-to-be 30 year old cornerback go. But should the team have been so quick to move on?
For those who may have forgotten, Rhodes signed a five-year extension worth potentially $70 million with $41 million guaranteed from 2017-22. This was following a stellar 2016 campaign in which the CB intercepted five passes and earned a Pro Bowl spot.
The ensuing three seasons, he combined for three interceptions and 23 pass defenses. However, it is also worth noting that Rhodes was struggling with injuries during both the 2018 and 2019 seasons. These years are where his decline truly took place as he was still an All-Pro in 2017.
Flash forward to now, and it looks as if injuries were really the only thing holding Rhodes back the last two years. The Vikings’ secondary is arguably the team’s biggest question mark, and Rhodes is quietly having a career year for the Colts. He is an anchor on an Indy secondary that has given up the eighth fewest passing yards this season.
Rhodes has been targeted 51 times, second most on the team just behind Kenny Moore, who has 52 targets. Of those 51 targets, he has allowed an astounding completion percentage of just 47.1%, a much different story than the 81.5% he allowed last year.
In fact, he is first on the Colts among anyone with 15 or more targets and fifth in the entire NFL among those qualifying. He ranks ahead of guys like Jalen Ramsey, Xavien Howard, and Denzel Ward. PFF also agrees that Rhodes has significantly revived his career, ranking him as the eighth best coverage cornerback, and tenth overall.
While this is going on in Indy, Minnesota does not have a single cornerback ranked in PFF’s top 70. PFF has the recently injured Cameron Dantzler as Minnesota’s top man, followed closely by both Kris Boyd and Jeff Gladney.
It’d be easy to chalk up Rhodes’ revival to being a situation where he goes into a good defense, and a lot of pressure gets taken off him. That might have been the case…if Indianapolis didn’t have one of the bottom ten pass defenses last year.
Along with that, they haven’t really gotten much production out of any other cornerbacks other than Rhodes and Moore. Rock Ya-Sin, Indy’s third-most used cornerback, has had flashes but continues to be a liability in coverage and with penalties. Ya-Sin has been flagged six times for 102 yards, both second-worst in the NFL among cornerbacks. His atrocious 39.0 PFF grade also ranks 120th.
Rhodes was set to make $9.9 million in 2020 with the Vikings and cutting him saved the team $8.1 million under the cap. While that is a lot to be paying a guy that struggled for two years, he may be proving to have been worth that money with his performance this year. Secondly, like with Riley Reiff, there should have been at least a discussion of renegotiating the contract that could have had Rhodes coming back for less money this season.