As the dust settles on the decision of cornerback Antoine Winfield to join the Seahawks, some still wonder why he ultimately didn’t choose to return to the Vikings.
The notion that the Vikings may have offered more than the $1 million in guaranteed money Winfield will get from the Seahawks misses the point, since Winfield gets the full $3 million offered by either team if he’s on the Week One roster. And with a third of his contract guaranteed by the Seahawks, he most likely will be.
Winfield’s decision to move on from Minnesota likely had more to do with the mixed signals he received over the past month. Instead of trying to reduce a $7.25 million base salary that, given the manner in which free agency unfolded clearly was too high for a cornerback on the wrong side of 35, the Vikings dumped him. Then, coach Leslie Frazier made it clear that he still wants Winfield on the team.
“He was the glue,” Frazier said last month, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “The way that he was in our meeting rooms, at practice, his participation in the offseason program. He was one of those guys who had not been around a lot in the offseason [previously]. And he was at everything a year ago. So his influence, you can’t put a dollar figure on that. It made a big difference on our season and in the development of a lot of players as well.”
If that’s the way the head coach feels, there was an apparent disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff. Even if the Vikings believed before free agency began that it would be impossible to work out a deal with which both sides would be happy, they should have tried. They should have talked to him. He should have known it was coming.
To get him to come back in the aftermath of abruptly cutting him loose, it wasn’t going to be enough to match the $3 million Winfield would get from the Seahawks. The Vikings needed to find a way to send a clear and unified message to Winfield that they truly wanted him back.
It’s still unclear whether they actually did, or whether this was about moving on from an older player one year too early — instead of doing it one year too late.