Contract contemplations: What’s Xavier Rhodes worth to Minnesota Vikings?

If the Vikings follow the path they took with Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes could start contract negotiations after this year. This season will help determine what Rhodes is worth, and we look at some comparative contracts, production and grades as a starting point.

The Minnesota Vikings have a lot of key players on their team nearing the end of their contracts, which means they might have to start making some difficult decisions about who to keep and who to let go in the coming years. Plenty of effort goes into a contract negotiation, such as a player’s value, the position’s value and what other players in the league at the same position are making.

Earlier this offseason the Vikings signed safety Harrison Smith to a five-year, $51.25 million contract extension. He was selected in the first round of the 2012 draft and just a year later the team selected another key piece of their secondary, cornerback Xavier Rhodes. With Smith’s deal out of the way, Rhodes now becomes one of the next players that will be looking for their new deal.

Rhodes is entering into his fourth season in the NFL, and since the Vikings drafted him in the first round they have a fifth-year option on his contract, which they chose to apply. With that option in place, Rhodes is scheduled to make $8.026 million in 2017, so it is possible the team will try to get a deal done before then, much like they did with Smith.

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Rhodes is the Vikings’ No. 1 cornerback and when he is on his game he is one of the better ones in the league. He is a big, physical cornerback that can match up against any receiver in the NFL and he also has the speed necessary to keep up with them down the field. The biggest problem, though, is he has a tendency to draw a lot of penalties.

That was a big issue for him at the start of the 2015 season, but he seemed to be able to clean it up as the year went on. If he is able to cut back on those penalties this season, it will certainly help him in contract negotiations as a player Mike Zimmer can trust.

CONTRACT COMPARISONS

The Washington Redskins set a new precedent for what top cornerbacks will make in the NFL this offseason when they signed Josh Norman to a five-year, $75 million deal.

Norman had a great 2015 season, recording 56 tackles, 19 passes defensed and four interceptions - two of which he returned for touchdowns. Rhodes’ 2015 season consisted of 58 tackles, 11 passes defensed and one interception.

Cornerback is a difficult position to judge on stats alone, though, because if they are doing their job correctly then the wide receiver shouldn’t be open and would have fewer passes thrown his way.

The other top cornerbacks in the NFL, in terms of contracts, are Darrelle Revis (five-years, $70,121,060), Patrick Peterson (five-years, $70.05 million), Joe Haden (five-years, $67.5 million) and Byron Maxwell (six-years, $63 million).

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Odds are, Rhodes will not be making that kind of money. If you look at Pro Football Focus, an analytical site that grades individual players off of their performance on the field, Rhodes was given a grade of 70.6, which was tied for the 58th best in the NFL and it was the third-highest on his team.

Norman received a grade of 84.1, Revis got a grade of 79.4 and Peterson was graded 86.9. Rhodes did receive a higher grade than both Haden (32.3) and Maxwell (52.4), though, which could be used in his contract negotiations, although the Vikings certainly have their own grading system.

One player with a PFF grade similar to Rhodes who also played in a similar amount of snaps in 2015 was Perrish Cox, whose most recent contract was a three-year deal worth $15 million. Rhodes will almost certainly get more than that.

Another aspect of things that is important to look at when dealing with players’ contracts is what other players the team has at the same position. In the case of the Vikings and their cornerbacks, Terence Newman is the starter along with Rhodes, but he will be 38 in September and isn’t expected to be playing for many more years.

They also have Trae Waynes, who was their first-round draft pick in 2015, and Mackensie Alexander, who was their second-round pick this year. They are two talented young players, but Waynes is expected to fill in for Newman once he leaves and Alexander is thought of as more of a nickel cornerback, who plays the same type of role as Captain Munnerlyn.

While Waynes has good height and great speed, he does not have the same kind of strength that Rhodes possesses and may not be able to handle the big, physical receivers as well. Alexander, on the other hand, is a smaller corner and would not match up as well against the taller receivers.

Rhodes has the potential and the possibility of earning a big contract extension following this season, but in order to do that he needs to cut down on the penalties and create more turnovers. If he doesn’t do that, he will still get paid, but it will be more of a middle-of-the-road deal, not a high-end one like some of those explored here. 

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