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INDIANAPOLIS – Even with the circumstances a bit different, the Colts and Xavier Rhodes are running it back.

Rhodes, who will turn 31 in June, tested the market and decided to return to the Colts on a 1-year deal (reportedly worth a maximum value of $6.5 million, per Stephen Holder of The Athletic).

Entering the offseason, Rhodes was the most important free agent for the Colts.

But Rhodes returning to the Colts wasn’t a slam dunk.

Three key factors that led to Rhodes signing with the Colts last spring were no longer in the team’s favor.

Easily the most important of those was Rhodes not having familiar cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon—who is now the defensive coordinator in Philadelphia—coaching him in Indianapolis.

Despite that, the Colts clearly view Rhodes as a key defensive piece.

That is even more the case now as the early part of free agency has played out with the Colts not making a substantial move at edge rusher.

In 2020, Rhodes did exactly what players are supposed to do on a 1-year prove-it deal.

After being cut by the Vikings last season, Rhodes resurrected things in a more zone-centric defense.

2019 Rhodes (Vikings): 81.5 completion percentage allowed, 123.8 quarterback rating allowed

2020 Rhodes (Colts): 52.4 completion percentage allowed, 84.6 quarterback rating allowed

“Xavier had a heck of a year,” Chris Ballard said at the end of the 2020 season. “Really bought into what we are doing. I give Jonathan Gannon a lot of credit for that. He had a relationship with Xavier from Minnesota. Xavier worked and bought into everything we are doing.

“I think we will wait and see how it works out here in free agency, but we like Xavier.”

Seeing the Colts again commit to Rhodes shows you what they think of him. Cornerback is never a position that Ballard has given notable resources to in free agency.

From an outside cornerback standpoint, the return of Rhodes (on a pretty affordable contract, too) gives them stability at the top of that depth chart.

Rhodes’ level of play at that outside cornerback spot last year is something that hasn’t been seen by this franchise since Vontae Davis in 2014.

With Rhodes again on a 1-year deal, his motivation should be pretty high again to try and earn another pay day in the NFL next offseason.

Young and unproven corners are behind Rhodes, with the versatile Kenny Moore a mainstay in the slot and/or outside.

But with a 2021 schedule including wideouts named DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown, DeAndre Hopkins and Stefon Diggs (and Mike Evans/Chris Godwin if a 17th game becomes officially scheduled), the Colts needed to have that No. 1 corner presence back.