As the Dallas Cowboys head into free agency in four days, they’re walking into the first phase of team-building with a need at the cornerback position. Byron Jones is likely playing for another team in 2020 and Anthony Brown could find a starting role and more money in a cornerback starved free-agent market.
Because they haven’t shown much of an interest in paying Byron Jones the top of market money he’s expected to receive in free agency, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to find an impact cornerback in free agency. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t options that could make sense. One such option is Xavier Rhodes who was released yesterday by the Minnesota Vikings.
Coming off the worst season of his career, Xavier Rhodes won’t be one of the first names to be snapped up. Rhodes allowed the 18th worst passer rating in the NFL in 2019 at 123.8. His 542 air yards allowed and 791 yards allowed were the ninth most last season.
Xavier Rhodes allowed a completion percentage of 81.5% in 2019. There wasn’t a cornerback who started more than three games in the NFL last year who allowed a higher completion percentage. In fact, only one cornerback allowed a higher completion percentage in the NFL last year per Pro Football Reference. That’s a little more than 20 percentage points higher than his 2018 completion percentage allowed.
After a standout season in 2016 where he intercepted five passes, he’s been on a steady decline, which led to his release. He’ll only be 30 years old this season, which isn’t that old in cornerback years. We’ve seen veteran cornerbacks play at a high level well into their 30s.
Rhodes is coming off of the worst season of his career and though he isn’t a popular option, as all veteran free agents, at a certain price, they might be a fit. And when I say, “a certain price,” I mean somewhere around the veteran minimum or a couple million a year. Josh Norman just signed with the Buffalo Bills for $6 million a year. That’s too much for me on Xavier Rhodes or Norman in fact.
Where Rhodes may make sense is in his ties with the current Dallas Cowboys coaching staff. Sr. Defensive Assistant George Edwards was the defensive coordinator under Mike Zimmer for all but one season of Rhodes career. That kind of tie can draw a player. However, Rhodes also saw his performance decline under Edwards the last couple of seasons, so perhaps the former Vikings cornerback would be less inclined to play under him.
The Dallas Cowboys certainly have a need at cornerback with just two players with significant playing time on their stat sheets. Despite that need, Xavier Rhodes isn’t the player I’d chase to fill out the cornerback depth chart. It seems pretty clear his best days are behind him and the Dallas Cowboys would be better served to take a shot on a rookie corner in the first three rounds of the draft, and maybe two of them.
Xavier Rhodes brings a lot of name-value as there was a time when he was talked about as the premier cornerback in the league. That time is long gone and it’s time to realize that Rhodes isn’t a player you want to rely upon to start for you if needed.