Last season, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes (29) failed to record an interception for the first time since 2013. File Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo
March 13 (UPI) -- The Minnesota Vikings changed their defensive unit in a significant way Friday, releasing Pro Bowlers Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph.
"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," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said in a statement. "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."
The Vikings also released tight end David Morgan with a failed physical designation, according to the team. Morgan, who missed the entirety of last season because of a knee injury, was in the final year of his rookie deal in 2019.
Ahead of the start of the new league year Wednesday, the Vikings created more than $19 million in salary-cap space by releasing the three players.
Rhodes, who had a $12.9 million cap hit and was under contract through 2022, gave the Vikings $8.1 million in savings with his release, according to Spotrac. Minnesota saved about $10.55 million against the cap by cutting Joseph, who was one of the highest-paid defensive tackles in the league, according to Spotrac.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Vikings entered Friday with an estimated $1.39 million in available cap space, the lowest in the league.
Rhodes, 29, was selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft and signed a five-year, $70.1 million extension before the 2017 season. The former Florida State star earned three Pro Bowl appearances but struggled over the last two seasons.
Last season, Rhodes was flagged for 10 penalties, allowed a 127.8 passer rating in coverage and failed to record an interception for the first time since 2013.
Joseph, 31, suffered a decrease in playing time last season because of injuries, leading to increased snaps for backups Jaleel Johnson and Armon Watts. The two-time Pro Bowl interior defensive lineman recorded 44 total tackles, the fewest since his rookie season in 2010, and three sacks in 13 regular-season games in 2019.