Situation with Vikings CB Antoine Winfield Begins To Go South

Antoine Winfield wants a new contract and wants to retire as a Viking… so he says.  The Pioneer Press has some quotes from Winfield about the situation and ProFootballTalk has broken down the situation as follows:

As Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield enters the final year of his six-year, $34.8 million contract with the team, he still wants a new one.

And he’s getting upset.

Not simply because he hasn’t gotten one, but because he believes he’s getting the runaround.

“They all said I was ‘their guy,’ and that we would try to get you done,” Winfield told Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press in reference to team officials like coach Brad Childress, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, and chief contract negotiator Rob Brzezinski.  “That’s all I was hearing.  My goal was to get something done so I could end my career as a Viking.  But, for some reason, we can’t get the deal done.”

Most recently, V.P. of player personnel Rick Spielman said
publicly that Winfield is “an important part of our defense” and that the team would do “everything we can to keep” him.”

“If they want me here, they should be able to get a deal done.  There shouldn’t be a problem,” Winfield told Jensen.  “If they don’t, then they need to say that and let’s work toward a resolution that works out good for everyone.”

In other words, Winfield — who is considering moving his family from Minnesota to Houston — apparently would like to be traded.

So how about this resolution?  Winfield honors the final year of his contract, makes another $6 million in salary, and then hits the open market in what could be an uncapped year?

The problem, in our view, is that Winfield wants the Vikings to give him open market value right now, before the Vikings have had the benefit of the final year of his existing deal.

Thus, it’s wrong, in our view, for Jensen to compare Winfield to players who played their way into positions of real leverage and open-market opportunity, like cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha, DeAngelo Hall, Kelvin Hayden, and Domonique Foxworth.

Winfield will be at that point in March; he’s not there yet.

Look, we understand that he’d prefer to start his retirement contract now, at age 32.  After the coming season, maybe other teams won’t be interested in giving a big pile of money to a guy who’ll be 33 when the 2010 season begins.

Still, he put his name on a contract and he has collected $28.8 million in five seasons.  Now that he finally has made it to a Pro Bowl, he wants more than $6 million for the sixth year.

But that’s not how it works.  The Vikings have bought and paid for his services for six seasons, and Winfield is contractually obligated to spend one more year with the team.

The money he already has made provides him with a sufficient war chest to hold out, since he’d be subject to fines in excess of $17,000 per day.  Eventually, however, he’d also owe the team the equivalent of a game check ($352,000) for each preseason game he skips.

So Winfield’s options remain limited, as a practical matter.  And even if he fears that he’ll get the Matt Birk or the Darren Sharper treatment once his contract expires, that’s the way the system works.

If he doesn’t like it, he shouldn’t hold out . . . he should simply retire.

As I have mentioned before, the Vikings have all the leverage in this one.  With defensive backs coming out of their ears this summer, the Vikings can test out the young guys to see how far they’d like to take this Winfield thing.  At his age, a new giant contract will almost certainly result in an over paid nickle back in a couple of years.

Then again, most fans love Winfield and would also like to see him retire as a Viking.

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