Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Could Antoine Winfield be back in Minnesota?

Daniel House explains why the Vikings should sign Antoine Winfield if he is released by the Seattle Seahawks. He talks about this and more in his latest post.

On April 18th, 2013, Antoine Winfield decided to take his talents to the Seattle Seahawks with a 1-year contract, including heavy incentives. The Vikings decided to release Winfield days before free agency began, freeing up $7.25 million against the salary cap. All of this occurred on the eve of the Vikings signing Phil Loadholt, who nearly was snatched by the Chicago Bears for more compensation.

The following illustrates
Winfield run defense
strength. (per PFF)
The Vikings lost the best coverage corner they have had in the last 10 years. Winfield recorded amazing coverage statistics last season by allowing just 9.6 yards per reception on the 60 catches he gave up, and not allowing a touchdown or catch longer than 41 yards all season. Not only is he sufficient from a coverage standpoint, but he is a huge asset in run defense.

Last season, he made 44 defensive stops, leading the league. Of those stops, 26 were in the run game, logging one on 7.3% of his run snaps, the top mark by a corner. All of this is very uncharacteristic from a cornerback in this league.

With this being said, the Vikings decided to move cap space and release Winfield prematurely. They quickly offered him $2 million more than the Seahawks offer, just days after they terminated his contract. He declined the offer and joined Seattle, where he seemed like an absolute "lock" to make the team.

Training camp began and reports from several sources began to surface about Winfield being on the "hot-seat." With a plethora of young faces among the Seahawks defense, Antoine (36) isn't exactly a cornerback for the future of the defense. According to sources from Seattle, I have been informed that Walter Thurmond is the player battling with Winfield for the final spot on the Seahawks 53-man roster. Thurmond (26),  has had a very good training camp, which poses the big question, do the Seahawks value experience over youth? The organization drafted Thurmond in the 4th round of the 2010 draft and have been developing him over the past three seasons. In the preseason, I believe Thurmond has the edge over Winfield from a coverage standpoint, but it is difficult to analyze when the doors are closed for practice.

When I asked a source about Winfield's odds to make the roster, they replied,

"I entered thinking Winfield had 50% odds to make the roster, but I left believing it is 80% likely he doesn't make this team."

Would I be open to an Antoine Winfield return if he is released during roster cuts?

Yes, but under one condition involving his commitment to this roster and the group of players. There could be a bit of animosity between Winfield and Vikings brass, which could lead to problems involving his acceptance in the locker room. If he his 100% committed to leading this team to the Meadowlands, I'm all in for this roster decision. Although, it all seems easy, I'm not sure Winfield would return to this team, especially if he is provided other opportunities from championship contenders.

From an ability standpoint, he has proven himself and I like the thought of having veteran leadership on the backend of this defense. In past posts, I have discussed my displeasure with little veteran leadership among this group of cornerbacks. Chris Cook, Josh Robinson, and Xavier Rhodes are all unproven commodities in this league, which worries me in a "pass-happy" NFC North. Despite the excellent play from the secondary in the second preseason game vs. Buffalo, we must remember this is exhibition football, in which team's rarely scheme for opponents.

Many emails and tweets I have received, have asked me if it is fair for Winfield to join the team, jeopardizing a roster spot for a young player with developmental talent. Frankly, yes because this is a business which requires players to frequently show they can make an impact if they are called upon. Have players such as Brandon Burton done so in their tenure with the team? Burton has went very non-descript, which means the Vikings would have a decision to make. Is the complete effort to keep this team young, or would a veteran provide security to an important position on the roster?

Marcus Sherels has been discussed from fans, but I honestly believe Felder has claimed his roster spot already. Sherels has zero flexibility and is consistently shredded from a coverage standpoint. He is a very reliable special teams punt returner, but he doesn't add position flexibility from the secondary aspect.

In case you missed my post discussing my second 53-man roster projection, here is the list of cornerbacks I have on the current roster.

LCB (2) -- Josh Robinson, Xavier Rhodes

RCB (4) -- Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson, Brandon Burton, Bobby Felder

As I discussed, the only player I see fit to be released from this position group is Brandon Burton. Although he has shown good ability as a tackler, he has struggled in coverage and hasn't separated himself. This season was the training camp I believed he would distinguish himself as a backup, but once again he disappointed me.

With all of this said, Antoine Winfield understands the scheme, has experience with this group, is a leader of the roster, and to add he is a definite upgrade if he is available and willing to return. All of this is assuming he is open to a return to the team, but through all the moments this team has provided him, I don't see how he declines the money, unless he has other offers from championship contenders.

One thing is certain, if I'm GM Rick Spielman I would be courting Winfield after he is released by the Seattle Seahawks, what about you?


  1. Really hope the two sides can get together and bring Antoine back. I almost gave up on football after the initial release because of the business side of the game had soured me. He played playoff football with a broken hand and put up league leading numbers and they fired him out of the weight room practicing when he didn't even need to be in the facility. Years of dedication and sacrifice rewarded with a shrug and a unceremonious boot. Getting fired up again just thinking about it!

  2. Emotionalism about Winfield doesn't change the fact that's he's very old in NFL terms, doesn't have the speed to play his position any more, was missing 5-6 games a year average for several yaers before last year's late-career miracle (which is a one-off event like Brett Favre at 40, btw) doesn't warrant a top level contract or attract serious interest from other teams, is likely about to get cut by Seattle, etc. I'm thinking the Vikes moved on but maybe they want to burn a roster spot on Antoine, who knows.