Xavier Rhodes and his teammates say he’s the best cornerback in the league.
Well, now he’s getting paid like it.
Rhodes signed a five-year extension worth up to $70 million on Sunday, league sources told the Star Tribune. Rhodes’ current deal through 2022 is the most lucrative deal inked by a defender in Vikings history, with a chance to earn $78 million over the next six seasons.
What’s his first purchase?
“Diapers,” Rhodes said with a grin. “A crib. A lot of baby stuff.”
The 27-year-old Rhodes is expecting his second child. His first, Justin, enters second grade this fall.
In many ways, the Vikings watched Rhodes grow up from 2013 first-round pick to one of the league’s best cornerbacks trusted to shadow top receivers. He has been under the watchful eye of many mentors, from coach Mike Zimmer to veteran teammate Terence Newman since this coaching staff was hired in his second NFL season.
They have used verbal jabs and actual boxing gloves to stay on top of his grabby style of play.
Rhodes remembers initially thinking of Zimmer — “man, he need to lay off.”
“He’s always been on me,” Rhodes said. “He always believed in me and always told me I’m going to work you hard until you’re the best corner in the league. He’s always trusted me to this day and I’m really thankful to him.”
It paid off. Rhodes, who is under contract for $8.026 million this season, will receive $41 million guaranteed, according to a source. That will be paid within the first three seasons, making his three-year average pay in line with Seattle’s Richard Sherman and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson at $14 million per season. His average pay over all six years is $13 million.
Upon signing the deal, Rhodes tweeted “The bank account done caught the Holy Ghost!!!!!”
Before Rhodes, defensive end Jared Allen had received the richest contract for a Vikings defensive player when he was paid $72 million over six years.
The Vikings, who had the league’s fifth-ranked defense last year, continue to successfully lock in star power. The team also signed defensive end Everson Griffen to a four-year extension last week.
More extensions are going to be approached, according to General Manager Rick Spielman, but after Rhodes’ deal only one big pending free agent remains for 2018. That’s quarterback Sam Bradford.
“We wanted to make sure we got [Rhodes] locked in to be a Minnesota Viking for most of his career, hopefully ending his career with us,” Spielman said. “We still have some guys we want to extend.”
Rhodes’ path to denying Aaron Rodgers passes began as a receiver at Florida State, where he was reluctant to make the switch to cornerback. About eight years later, he’s grown into one of the NFL’s stingiest pass defenders. Flags still fly Rhodes’ way, but he’s made his money by irritating some of the game’s best receivers, from Odell Beckham Jr. to DeAndre Hopkins.
Last year’s breakout campaign showed what Rhodes could do once he put it all together. He became the first Vikings cornerback in more than a decade to grab five interceptions in a season and was regularly assigned to shadow an opponent’s top receiver. That includes the Vikings’ Monday night victory over the Giants, when Beckham was held to three catches for 23 yards.
“The way he views the game, the way he studies the game has taken a step,” Newman said. “I think he’s the best in the league, honestly. If you look at him technically, who do you put in front of him? Nobody. He’s the best in the league.”
The heavy lifting by Rhodes doesn’t go unnoticed in his own secondary. However, he maintains safety Harrison Smith is “always going to be the leader” of the defense.
“When you have a guy that can for the most part take away one side of the field and cover the best receiver they got,” Smith said, “I don’t know if there’s another harder job, physically, in the league than that. And he’s awesome.”
Rhodes said he’s achieved many of his goals, from being a first-round pick to earning a Pro Bowl bid and now millions guaranteed to financially secure his family’s future. But the work’s not done.
“I was able to accomplish that,” Rhodes said. “There are a few more [goals] I need to accomplish.”