In a surprising move Tuesday, the Vikings released 35-year-old cornerback Antoine Winfield.
“Antoine Winfield was a very tough decision,” Rick Spielman said of the news, via 1500ESPN.com. “It was a business decision as we move forward. Antoine is a great football player for us.”
Releasing Winfield, who was going into the last year of his contract, cleared up $7.25 million in cap space for the Vikings.
Earlier in the offseason, Vikings brass had approached Winfield about taking a pay cut in 2013, but after another very productive year with 100 tackles and three picks, the Winfield camp was less than enthused about a renegotiation for less money.
Winfield’s cap number of $7.25 million was very steep for a slot cornerback turning 36 in June and looking at what Leslie Frazier called, “a reduced role.” However, Winfield is undeniably the best run-stopping cornerback in the game, even at his age, and his leadership and talent will most certainly be missed in the Vikings secondary.
Spielman, ever in PR-mode, spewed a little of the company line for us, as well.
“We definitely want to keep the door open on his possible return, but at this time we had to release him in order to get him out into free agency.”
That’s great, but frankly, Winfield already turned down the idea of playing for less money.
It’s certainly possible he goes out into free agency and sees that the Vikings are willing to pay more than anyone else, but there’s always a team like the Redskins dying to overpay for free agents (and wouldn’t you know, they just released DeAngelo Hall.)
It’s also possible Winfield just isn’t willing to play for the amount he is offered around the league and decides to hang it up.
It will be interesting to see whom the Vikings pick up to take Winfield’s place or if they are content with Chris Cook, Josh Robinson, AJ Jefferson and maybe a draft pick.
Either way, I fear for our run defense next year.
Hmmm, I wonder if Kevin Williams knows the names of any of the Vikings cornerbacks now, either..
Editor’s Note: There seems to be some discrepency about whether or not the Vikings asked Antoine Winfield to take a pay cut. I’ll just let those with the sources duke it out Twitter-style.
Read somewhere #Vikings didn’t approach Winfield about a pay cut. Yes, they did. But there also was no dialogue for weeks after the combine.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 13, 2013
Winfield may not have been willing to restructure his contract. But he was never formally asked to do so.
— Dan Wiederer (@StribDW) March 13, 2013