AnalysisGeneral NewsOpinionTransaction

Winfield’s Release A Result Of Front Office Failures

On the surface, it makes sense for a team that obviously still considers itself to be rebuilding to release a soon-to-be 36 year old cornerback that carried a $7.5 million salary.

When you state it that plainly, it is really hard to argue with the logic, and therefore it shouldn’t be considered the most unreasonable course of action to take.

Still, when the Vikings released Antoine Winfield on Tuesday I couldn’t help but be a little upset at the Vikings organization, even while dismissing the emotional attachment I think most Vikings fans felt for the powerful little cornerback.

In 2009, Winfield agreed to a unique contract with the Vikings that was lauded, by both the team and the player, as a deal that would see him retire as a Viking.  The contract reportedly contained de-escalators (or escalators, depending on how you look at it) that greatly reduced Winfield’s salary in the final years of the deal.  The mechanism was based off of playing time.

The thought was that as Winfield got older the Vikings could relegate him to playing strictly out of the nickel, where he has always been at his best, and elongate his career while also paying him accordingly.

Instead, the Vikings used Winfield’s presence as an excuse to not seriously upgrade the cornerback position and constantly had to rely on Winfield to step into a starting role, seemingly week after week, which is how he triggered the pay raise.  During the time since Winfield signed this contract the most they invested into a cornerback was when they used a second rounder on Chris Cook, a known character risk, who has missed plenty of time with legal issues and injuries.

So, when I heard that Winfield refused to take a pay cut to stay with the Vikings, I was not surprised nor could I blame him.  His 2013 salary was a result of what he had done in the past, it was money he had already earned by being the great player we all know him to be, and this is one of those  rare cases when a player should feel entitled to money has not yet been paid.

Winfield gave us a ton of great memories over the years, including delivering a speech to his teammates last season that was cited as a reason for the defense playing better down the stretch, and he will be greatly missed.  The Vikings front office had an opportunity to improve their secondary and keep Winfield at a reasonable price.

Instead, they still have major question marks at the position, and Winfield had to be cut for cap reasons.

That is one to put in the “fail” column.

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Adam Warwas

Adam Warwas (Founder) has been writing about the Vikings for a total of eight years. Five of those years have been here at Vikings Territory where he continues to surround himself with enough talented individuals that people keep coming back. As proud as he is of what Vikings Territory has become, his real treasures are in his home... a beautiful wife and three amazing children (and a dog named Percy).

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  1. Hate to say it, but I have to disagree with your statement here. The way that Antoine was playing the past few years, you’d be hard many teams where Antoine wouldn’t be playing. It’s easy to say you need to upgrade and have him playing slot, but when it comes to Sunday, you want your best players on the field and he was still playing at a level where he was too good for the coaches to justify having him on the bench.

    Though it sucks to see him leave (especially after I got him to sign my Vikings jersey last year), but from an organizational standpoint this was the most logical decision. After looking how our FAs and rookies played last season (save a few), I think Slick Rick deserves the benefit of the doubt

    1. Exactly. Put your best players on the field. Winfield was never “elite” when covering big, number one receivers. Where he was elite was in the nickel where he could cover slot guys, act like a linebacker and upend a running back behind the line, or even blitz the rusher on occasion.

      Having corners that could cover on the outside would have allowed him to do that, at $3.5 million, instead of being forced to the outside at $7.5 million.

      1. I agree. But you make it seem like its easy to upgrade on what he was offering outside. On two receiver sets, I still what him on the field. Should we have overpaid for an average FA just to drop his salary? Or should we have drafted Claiborne over Kalil… In both senses I say no. Sure it’s sounds like a nice theory, but I there aren’t that many opportunities to grab top quality CBs and the Vikes actually did pretty good grabbing one with Chris Cook

        1. Easy? No, of course not. He signed his contract in 2009, though, and they have had FOUR YEARS to prepare for this. Their stated goal has always been to reduce the aging corner’s snaps to keep him in the nickel and keep him healthy.

          They failed to keep him in the nickel.
          The failed, at times, to keep him healthy.
          And they failed to find guys that could man the post on the outside.

  2. “It’s easy to say you need to upgrade and have him playing slot, but when it comes to Sunday, you want your best players on the field and he was still playing at a level where he was too good for the coaches to justify having him on the bench.”

    Exactly, they were forced to put him on the field because they’ve done nothing at that position. Like Adam said.

  3. this guy is like a coach who still plays. sorry to see this. hope nobody else takes him so we can get him back

    1. He’ll be snapped up by someone. Hope not but it’s unlikely we’ll see him in Purple again. Big loss.

  4. Absolutely agree Adam. This kind of pisses me off. A lot more to it than just straight logic, bad move to just release him like that. Sets a bad precedent.

  5. Letting A.W. go is not a upgrade cause there not goin to sign anybody to upgrade unless you call signing 2nd and 3rd tier players. I know its early but I see these guys sticking to there guns of not signing any players of any value accepted those type players.