EAGAN, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings on Friday terminated the contracts of veteran defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
The announcement occurred a few days before the new league year is set to open at 3 p.m. (CT) on March 18 and ahead of the "legal tampering" period that starts Monday.
Joseph, 31, and Rhodes, 29, will be able to see what other teams are offering before free agency opens Wednesday.
There is still a possibility that either or both could re-sign with Minnesota, a potential option referenced by Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer in statements.
"Both Linval and Xavier have personified what it means to be a Minnesota Viking since joining our organization, providing incredible leadership on the field, in the locker room and within the community," Spielman said. "We are all grateful for their hard work and all they've done to help build our culture here in Minnesota. This decision comes now to allow Linval and Xavier to enter free agency prior to the start of the new league year. We are sincerely appreciative of their contributions and commitment and will remain in communication as all parties navigate free agency moving forward."
Zimmer added: "Xavier and Linval were key parts of building this team and establishing the Vikings defense the way we wanted. They're pros and made everyone around them better. I wish them the best, and I know Rick and the personnel staff will stay in communication with them during free agency."
Joseph was a key addition to the Vikings through free agency in 2014, Head Coach Mike Zimmer's first season at the helm. He started all 88 regular-season games he played for Minnesota and proved to be a formidable force in improving the Vikings run defense under Zimmer.
Joseph recorded 303 tackles (league stats) from 2015-19, the second-most in the NFL among defensive tackles during that span.
View the top photos of Vikings DT Linval Joseph from the 2019 season.
In 2016, he became just the fifth different Vikings defensive tackle to record at least 100 tackles and 4.0 sacks in a season, earning his first of two trips to the Pro Bowl. Joseph recorded 15 of his 24 career sacks with the Vikings. He celebrated them by tossing an imaginary baseball in the air, swinging for the fences and blowing kisses to the crowd.
Joseph played his first four pro seasons with the New York Giants as a second-round pick and helped Big Blue win Super Bowl XLVI. He wanted to do the same for the Purple, and the team nearly did so in 2017 after advancing to the NFC Championship Game thanks to the NFL's top-ranked defense in points and yards allowed.
The most-beloved play of Joseph's tenure with the Vikings is his 64-yard return of a fumble for a touchdown at Philadelphia in 2018. It was the third-longest return of a fumble by a defensive tackle in Vikings history.
Born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Joseph grew up in Orlando, Florida. He experienced bullying during his youth, which prompted his hard work to stop the harmful activity and lift up others who have been hurt by it.
Rhodes joined the Vikings in 2013 as one of three first-round selections along with Sharrif Floyd and Cordarrelle Patterson. The pick used to select Rhodes was acquired from Seattle in a trade for Percy Harvin.
In his rookie season, Rhodes started six of 13 games played and set a Vikings record for first-year players with 23 passes defensed. He moved into a full-time starting role under Zimmer and helped transform a defense that had ranked at or near the bottom of multiple categories in 2013.
View the top photos of Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes from the 2019 season.
Over the past six seasons, Rhodes started 91 of 96 possible regular-season games. He set a career high with five interceptions in 2016, including one that he returned 100 yards for a touchdown against Arizona. It was one of two picks that day.
Rhodes earned his first of two consecutive Pro Bowls that season, and in 2017, he was named First-Team All-Pro at cornerback and Second-Team All-Pro at defensive back by the Associated Press.
The native of Miami, Florida, has totaled 10 interceptions, along with 13 tackles for loss, showing a willingness to help in run support throughout his career. Team stats have credited him with 96 passes defensed.
Rhodes also has been active in the Twin Cities community, delivering cartloads of toys and gifts to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital during the holidays and frequently supporting Boys & Girls Clubs.