Vikings release top cornerback Antoine Winfield

Vikings hand top CB Winfield his walking papers

3/12/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Blog Photo - Vikings release top cornerback Antoine WinfieldAfter deciding against taking a pay cut to remain on the team, cornerback Antoine Winfield has been released by the Vikings, who will save $7.25 million as a result of the move. The decision comes as a bit of a surprise, as Winfield was the Vikings' best cornerback in 2012 and was playing at a very high level, despite being 35 years of age. He graded out as Pro Football Focus's best run defending cornerback, didn't allow a passing touchdown all season, and played 94% of the Vikings' defensive snaps. He is considered by some to be the best slot corner in the NFL.

In the wake of the move, Vikings' officials are reportedly and understandably upset with general manager Rick Spielman. "It's a move backwards," one team official said. Winfield led the Vikings in interceptions and passes defended in 2012, so Spielman created some big shoes to fill by releasing him. The team may now be in search of a new cornerback, with raw second year player Josh Robinson and former undrafted free agent AJ Jefferson looking like the most likely candidates to start opposite of Chris Cook next season. They could address the position with one of their two first-round picks, with which they could likely get a quality corner who would immediately compete for a starting job.

It has been suggested that releasing Winfield was done to clear cap space so that the Vikings could make a run at free agent receiver Mike Wallace. Having an already thin receiving core that just shipped top aerial weapon Percy Harvin to Seattle, the Vikings obviously need to provide young quarterback Christian Ponder with better players to throw to, so it would not be at all surprising to see them make a run at the electrifying former Steeler.

Winfield will now hit the open market and have no shortage of interested teams. Turning 36 years old in June, most of the interest will likely come from teams expecting to make a run at the Super Bowl. He still has plenty to contribute, and is probably the third or fourth best corner on the market, behind only Aqib Talib, Sean Smith, and possibly Brent Grimes (depending on how he recovers from a torn achilles tendon).
Notify me by email about comments that follow mine. Preview