Minnesota Vikings v Philadelphia Eagles

According to Tom Pelissero, the Minnesota Vikings have released cornerback Antoine Winfield. The Vikings asked Winfield to take a pay cut and Winfield decided to take his chances in free agency.

 

Winfield signed with Minnesota in 2004, a six-year deal. He was then extended to a new, five-year, $36 million contract in 2009. He made the Pro Bowl in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and was All-Pro in 2008. Last season, Winfield played in all 16 games while recording 71 solo tackles and three interceptions.

While Winfield is still among the league’s top tier corners, paying someone of his vintage (he’s 36) a base salary of $7.25 million in 2013 is a thing that just wasn’t happening, especially with the Vikings preparing to possibly give all of their money to a wide receiver in free agency to replace Percy Harvin. Prior to cutting Winfield the Vikings had roughly $15 million in cap room, making them eligible but doubtful contenders to sign Mike Wallace, who could command somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 million annually. Now such a big boy move is possible.

Shutdown Corner’s Doug Farrar noted that in a league where the slot corner is now a highly valued defender, Winfield’s skills are ideal for that role, and therefore despite his age he’ll have plenty of suitors:

Per Pro Football Focus’ metrics,  he had 34 tackles and 26 “stops” (plays for negative yardage) in 354 run snaps in 2012, amassing a 7.3% stop rate that was by far the best at his position. He played 326 pass-play snaps in the slot, allowing no touchdowns, and just 34 catches for 337 yards on 51 targets.

Those are some fine numbers, with Winfield giving up a catch on just 10.4 percent of the passes he faced while defending the slot. After the first tier of cornerbacks (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Sean Smith, Brent Grimes), Winfield will follow behind closely and lead the second tier.

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