Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Mulling Antoine Winfield's possible return
By Kevin Seifert
PHOENIX -- As of this moment, the Minnesota Vikings' top three cornerbacks are Chris Cook, Josh Robinson and A.J. Jefferson. If that concerns you, rest assured the Vikings' coach feels the same way.
"We want to definitely add more competition at that position," Leslie Frazier said Wednesday at the NFL owners meeting. "Chris has been injured in his career and has been off the field for different reasons. Josh is going into his second season. You hope he would continue to ascend but you don't know. And A.J. hasn't proven he can do it 16 games in a row. So we need to address that position in this draft, for sure."
The bigger question is whether the Vikings' incoming rookies will compete with that trio, or whether Frazier and the Vikings can talk veteran Antoine Winfield into returning in a reduced role after his surprising release earlier this month.
Frazier said he has spoken about the possibility with Winfield, who has yet to take any free-agent visits and seems encouraged by the possibility.
"He made me believe that that was a possibility, that things could work out here, that he would be back in Minnesota," Frazier said. "I know there are other teams that are calling him to see what his interest is in continuing to play. He gave me the impression that he would like to be able to be back in Minnesota. Now it's just a matter, can we work things out financially to his liking as well as to our team's liking?"
If he returned, Winfield would serve as the Vikings' third cornerback and play only in nickel situations, a downshift that would cut his snaps by about a third based on how often the Vikings were in nickel last season.
"He's very comfortable being back in that role alone," Frazier said. "That's the best thing for our team. That's the best thing for him, to be able to keep him on the entire field the entire season. He had no qualms with that. He understands why."
Veteran cornerbacks haven't seen much action in this free-agent market, justifying the business end of the Vikings' decision to release Winfield and his $7.25 million base salary. But without knowing how they will fare in the draft, to this point they've left themselves thin at the position. There is no doubt the Vikings would be better off with him on their roster.