Winfield Absent Over Contract Gripe?


Speculation about Antoine Winfield being cheesed over the Vikings’ failure to obtain a veteran QB may be nothing but a lot of hot-air. In today’s Star-Tribune, Kevin Seifert reports that Winfield is likely just irked about his contract, and skipping this week’s voluntary OTA is simply his way of mounting a silent protest.

Winfield may have a legitimate contract gripe, going by some of the deals signed this off-season. When Winfield joined the Vikes in 2004, he inked a six-year deal worth $35 million overall, $10.8 million of that being guaranteed money. This off-season, Winfield’s former Buffalo teammate and fellow CB Nate Clements was signed by San Francisco to an eight-year pact worth $80 million, $22 million guaranteed. So is Winfield in line for a raise? He’s certainly earned the money the Vikings have paid him so far, having led the defensive backfield in tackles each year he’s been here, while being arguably the team’s most consistent defensive performer overall. Plus, on a team known (at least up until last year) for off-the-field hijinks, Winfield has always been a solid citizen, and even when he’s been critical, he’s always gone about it in a gentlemanly and prudent manner. The argument could be made that a re-negotiation would not be totally out-of-line.

On the other hand, he did sign the contract. He got fair market value at the time he inked the deal – just as Nate Clements did this off-season. It was a weak free agent class this year, and that fact coupled with the inevitable desperation and fiscal irresponsibility of certain franchises led to guys getting bigger contracts than would’ve been offered in other years. It’s just the way those things work. Winfield’s bad luck was that he didn’t come up for free-agency this year. That’s the down-side of the long-term contract – your next turn might not come at the right time.

All that being said, it doesn’t appear that Winfield intends making a huge stink about the situation. He has reportedly told friends that he will be present for the team’s mini-camp at the beginning of June. And people in the know say they do not expect Winfield to actually hold-out. Furthermore, Brad Childress and others say that Winfield has never directly requested a trade. His absence from the OTA, which again is technically voluntary, is probably just his way of making his feelings known without rocking the boat too much. Expect to see Antoine lining up when the season starts, ready to add to his reputation as the best-tackling corner in the league.