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Winfield contract a unique one

July 23rd, 2009 – 3:41 PM by Judd Zulgad

Antoine Winfield and the Vikings both had a common goal. They wanted the cornerback to finish his career in Minnesota. But Winfield and the Vikings also wanted to protect themselves.

Winfield, coming off the first Pro Bowl appearance of his 10-year career, wanted to be paid like a starter as long as he was in that role. The Vikings wanted assurances that if Winfield wasn’t a starter they didn’t have to pay him like a front-line corner. Keep in mind with Winfield having just turned 32 years old, the Vikings were justified to have some concerns about this issue.

The compromise they came to in announcing Winfield’s five-year, $36 million ($16.1 million guaranteed) deal on Thursday is an interesting one and could be termed a de-esclator and potentially esclator clause. The verbiage states that if Winfield loses his starting job in 2011 and moves to the nickel role, the following season his salary of $7 million will be cut in half, meaning he will be paid as a top nickel corner rather than a top starting corner. But if Winfield eventually gets the starting job back his salary will jump back up to its previous terms.

What this means is that if Winfield loses his job, the Vikings won’t be tempted to cut him because he’s making way too much money. And Winfield won’t be looking for a raise in either situation because he would be well compenstated for the position he plays. Of course, if Winfield keep the starting spot his salary won’t change.

“I haven’t seen anybody else with it,” Winfield’s agent, Ashanti Webb, said when asked about the unique deal.

Said Winfield: “Of course, I’d love to play all five years at cornerback but we’ll just see.”

This contract took some time to get done and, according to Winfield, talks had started shortly after the season ended. Negotiations broke down for a period in the spring but then resumed. Winfield, however, did stay away from the Vikings’ offseason practices.

“It was important for me [to get this done] because I wanted to finish my career here,” he said. “It will be my last stop. Usually you see a lot of players when they get up in age go to different teams. That won’t happen to me. Once I’m done playing for the Vikings my career will be over.”

The Vikings have been extremely pro-active when it comes to their starting cornerback this offseason. Cedric Griffin signed a five-year, $25 million deal that includes $10 million in guarantees in March.

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