A fair deal for Winfield and the Vikings

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Thursday's contract agreement between Minnesota and cornerback Antoine Winfield represents a true compromise in what was a relatively unique situation.

Winfield is a rare player who hit his career stride in his ninth NFL season. He established himself in 2009 as one of the game's top cornerbacks at age 31, but the Vikings were understandably wary of paying premium money to a player who statistically is entering the final years of his career.

So as ESPN.com's John Clayton reported, the final agreement calls for Winfield to be paid like a top cornerback for as long as he plays like one. Over the course of the next five years, Winfield would receive an average of a little more than $7 million per season.

But the Vikings are protected if his play slips as he gets older. Starting in 2011, the value would drop to about $3 million per season if he loses his starting job but remains the Vikings' third cornerback.

Everyone should be happy with that arrangement, which makes it very likely that Winfield will play out all five years of the new contract. He'll be 36 in its final year, but there is every reason to believe he can at least be the Vikings' nickelback at that point.

This deal is also a case study in remaining patient during the ebbs and flows of negotiations. Moral of the story: Whenever you hear that talks have "broken off," consider it temporary unless someone says otherwise.