The natural inclination after Antoine Winfield was released from the Seattle Seahawks was to wonder whether he would wind up back in Minnesota for his 15th season. The Vikings tried to bring Winfield back at a reduced salary after cutting him in April, and coach Leslie Frazier was in regular contact with the veteran cornerback this spring to let him know how much the team wanted him to return.
Winfield's retirement appeared to quash that possibility. But if the cornerback changes his mind, Frazier said on Monday, the door is still open for him to return.
"I have a ton of respect for Antoine, as you know," Frazier said. "He did a lot of good things for us here, had a great career here in Minnesota and really helped me look good at times with some of the plays he made. I have a deep affection for him, but if he wanted to play, I’d welcome the opportunity to work with Antoine again if that’s what he wanted to do. But if he’s retired, I wish him nothing but the best. He’s been a great player, a great person, and he’s going to enjoy retirement. But he was a tremendous player for a long time in our league.”
Frazier said he hadn't spoken to Winfield, but might give him a call this afternoon to wish him well. If Winfield were interested in playing, it might not be hard for the Vikings to find a role for him; they're trying to replace him with Josh Robinson at the slot corner position, and Winfield was among the top corners in the league at that position. It would, however, require the Vikings to find another role for Robinson after spending the entire summer developing him there, as we discussed over the weekend, and at some point, the Vikings will have to address their future in the defensive backfield.
But if Winfield does decide he wants to play, there's little question the Vikings would make the most sense. He still lives in the area, knows the Vikings' defense, and would instantly command respect in the locker room. It's hard to say whether he would want to return to Minnesota on those terms, especially after the team's initial decision to cut him left Winfield surprised and hurt. However, as Frazier made clear on Monday, the Vikings would still be interested in a reunion if Winfield were.