A Look Back at When Antoine Winfield Nearly Became a Jet

From 2004-2012, Antoine Winfield was a star cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings.

He was, without a doubt, one of the most well-respected Vikings during that time, both within the organization and with the fans.

Winfield was a classy individual during his nine seasons with the team, and he is one of the best tackling cornerbacks ever to play this game. He would hit like a linebacker despite being only 5’9 and 180 pounds.

This Sunday, Minnesota hosts the New York Jets. Winfield nearly became a Jet in 2004 before he signed with the Vikings.

Winfield was drafted 23rd overall in 1999 by the Buffalo Bills out of Ohio State. After five seasons in Buffalo, he became a free agent.

He initially agreed to a six-year deal with New York worth $30 million with a $10 million signing bonus. He backed out and signed with the purple for six years, worth $34.8 million with a $10.8 million bonus.

Image Courtesy of Daily Norseman
Image Courtesy of Daily Norseman

Winfield, despite never making a Pro Bowl in Buffalo and intercepting only six passes with them, was still one of the best cornerbacks on the free-agent market. He was also only 26 at the time and had 107 tackles in 2003 (stayed his career-high during his 14-year career).

During Winfield’s nine seasons with the Vikings, he was a three-time Pro Bowler (2008-10) and a second-team All-Pro in 2008. He was not a shutdown corner by any means, but he was still a good cover corner. His tackling ability and being able to blitz made him one of the team’s best defensive players during his time with the organization.

There is a saying, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Winfield certainly played bigger than his size, one of the main reasons Vikings fans loved him and offensive players feared him.

Vikings 2021 3rd-Round LB Lands in New York
Sep 12, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; New York Jets helmets.Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

Winfield recorded 21 interceptions with the Vikings, two of which were returned for touchdowns. He also returned two fumbles for touchdowns and returned a blocked kick for one too.

Had he not signed with the Vikings, they very possibly would not have won the division in 2008 and may not have in 2009, either. They also likely do not make the playoffs in 2004 (the same season the Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs at Lambeau Field).

That 2009 season was one of the most memorable seasons in team history. While Brett Favre was the main reason they nearly made it to the Super Bowl and Winfield missed six games, he still was part of why they went 12-4 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.

That team very possibly would have won the Super Bowl over the Indianapolis Colts had they made it there. Winfield would have then been a member of the only team in franchise history ever to win a Super Bowl. He was one of many players on that team that deserved a championship ring.

Winfield will always be one of the best free-agent signings this franchise has ever made — also one of the best defensive backs and most popular among the fans.

His son Antoine Jr. is carrying along the Winfield name pretty well too. The third-year safety is also a fantastic player.

(14) Antoine Winfield Highlights [HD] – YouTube