When the Vikings signed veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield to a contract extension in 2009 the unique triggers in the deal, which de-escalated his salary if he were relegated to the nickel position primarily, should have been all the motivation the team’s front office needed to greatly upgrade the position and ensure Winfield stays put with a manageable salary.
Instead, the Vikings did little to add real firepower to the cornerback position and Winfield’s 2012 playing time meant his salary would be $7.25 million in 2013, which is obviously a lot to pay your average 36 year old corner.
The thing is, however, Antoine Winfield is not your average anything.
Ever since signing with the Vikings nine seasons ago, Winfield has been an example to every Vikings player to ever pass through the locker room, showing them how an NFL player ought to act off the field and how a great one ought to play on it. He has defied logic by being the greatest tackling cornerback the NFL has ever seen despite his small stature. He has played through emotional and physical pain. He has neutralized some of the best running backs, wide outs, and even quarterbacks the Vikings ever played. He has delivered speeches that resonated with his entire defense. He has been an on-field coach and an off-field angel in the Twin Cities. He has, almost single handedly, won some very memorable football games for us Vikings to remember and cherish forever.
His release sparked an outrage within the Viking fan community. I tried to take emotion out of it when explaining the financial reasons for myself being upset, but still concluded that the Vikings front office was to blame. After details of how the departure was orchestrated, however, I think the front office deserves blame for a lot more than simply the fact that Winfield was released.
Dan Wiederer of Access Vikings was the first to release details of how Winfield was informed of Rick Spielman’s decision. Wiederer says that Winfield was at Winter Park working out on Tuesday morning when he was asked to go see Spielman in his office upstairs. The release was described as “awkward” and “cold,” which is not terribly unusual in the business of the NFL, but it seems that this would be a situation that might warrant some extra tact.
Wiederer described Winfield as being confused and disappointed with how things played out. Despite previous reports that indicated Winfield refused to take a pay cut to stay with the team, the report says that Winfield was never formally approached about restructuring or reducing his salary, which is why he and his agent were so taken by surprise with the move. The report said Winfield felt like he deserved better, and all of us would likely agree with him.