MANKATO, Minn. –In a summer where commutes are wrought with construction, this is one Rhodes closure that Minnesotans are welcoming with open arms.
The Vikings announced Sunday that they have signed cornerback Xavier Rhodes to a contract extension.
"A childhood dream," Rhodes said as he inked his name. "A dream turning into a reality. I can't believe I'm actually doing this."
He added after a pause: "Life-changing."
Rhodes is entering his fifth season in Purple and coming off a 2016 performance that earned him Minnesota Vikings Defensive MVP honors in addition to his first career Pro Bowl nod.
After recording two interceptions over his first three seasons, the 27-year-old snagged a career-high five picks last season, including one he returned 100 yards for a touchdown against Arizona. He tied for second on the Vikings with 14 passes defended and racked up 54 total tackles (according to coaches' tally).
The numbers resulted from a season in which Rhodes faced some of the league's top receivers.
In Week 4, Rhodes held Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., to a career-low 23 yards on just three catches. He limited Houston's DeAndre Hopkins to just 56 yards and did not allow Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin a single reception.
Rhodes ranked 66th on NFL's Top 100 list, a lineup voted on solely by Rhodes' peers across the league.
Vikings safety Harrison Smith is glad that Rhodes will be staying alongside him in the secondary.
"It's been incredible seeing how he's grown into the player that he is now," Smith said. "Having him locked up is big time. He is, in my opinion, the best [corner] out there. He's always covering the best receiver all over the field, and it's hard to find to find a guy like that.
"The work ethic that he has, the way he pushes himself, I'm extremely happy for him," Smith added.
Rhodes' extension effectively retains another piece of Minnesota's defense, coming four days after Everson Griffen also was signed to an extension.
"We're going to be keeping us all together," Rhodes said. "Just trying to be the great defense, the Vikings defense we've been for the past three or four years."
Since being selected 25th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, Rhodes has recorded 236 tackles (188 solo) by coaches' tally, seven interceptions, 68 passes broken up, eight tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. In 2014, his 18 passes defensed ranked fourth in the NFL and second in the NFC.
"[I'm going to] keep doing what I'm doing," Rhodes said. "Being aggressive, being a physical guy, staying on top of the receivers, just making plays on the field."
Rhodes said he was relieved to have the business side wrapped up.
"Now I can just get back out there and just go all out," Rhodes said. "And just have fun, like I've been doing. Like I've always been doing. Nothing's going to change – I'm going to be the same Xavier Rhodes."
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