It would not be surprising if Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield and the Vikings reach an agreement on a contract extension today, but as of late Wednesday there apparently were a few details that still needed to be worked out.
Nonetheless, for all those who were concerned that Winfield was going to end up playing out the final year of his contract and then move on to another franchise, Wednesday’s developments had to be considered good news. Remember, contract talks between the Vikings and Winfield broke down in May and he stayed away from all of the team’s offseason practices.
Assuming this deal gets done, and it’s highly unlikely that Winfield’s agent, Ashanti Webb, would have traveled to the Twin Cities on Wednesday if he didn’t think this was going to be completed, it will be interesting to see the finished contract. Winfield turned 32 years old last month and there is little doubt the Vikings’ main concern was paying a cornerback who might be 36 or 37 when this contract expires.
Cedric Griffin isn’t as good of a player as Winfield but the corner got a five-year, $25 million extension in March because he’s only entering his fourth season and he continues to improve. The NFL is a cruel business and teams are often concerned about rewarding players for past performances without guarantees of future results.
Winfield, though, is an interesting case. He’s coming off a standout season in which he made the Pro Bowl for the first time — he has probably deserved to go before but playing in markets like Buffalo and Minnesota don’t always put you in the spotlight — and he keeps himself in excellent condition.
The Vikings obviously weighed all of these factors and have decided that Winfield remains a good investment. The fact they did not appear to be all that proactive in negotiations with longtime center Matt Birk last year also could have made team execs think a little bit harder about their position when it comes to respected veterans in the locker room.
What will be interesting now is to see how Winfield gets used in the coming seasons. He will remain the starting left corner in 2009 but eventually he could be moved into the inside role in the nickel package. Winfield enjoys playing this spot and, let’s say, Asher Allen eventually takes over as a starting corner, Winfield could remain effective by taking the majority of his reps inside.
With the amount of sub packages used by NFL defenses these days, that could still get him plenty of snaps even if he wasn’t playing one of the outside corners. I think there is a greater chance of that happening than Winfield ending up at safety as some have suggested.