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Friday, April 12, 2013
A few thoughts on Antoine Winfield

By Mike Sando

Cornerback Antoine Winfield remains a free agent for now following reports he was nearing a deal with the Seattle Seahawks while still considering the Minnesota Vikings.

Winfield would be an intriguing luxury for the Seahawks. They appear strong at cornerback with Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner as the starters in the base defense. They saw some good things from 2012 sixth-round choice Jeremy Lane late last season and could proceed with him as a potential third corner. The draft will provide another avenue for improving the nickel corner situation as the team moves on from 32-year-old veteran Marcus Trufant.

Winfield turns 36 in June. He is not the future, obviously. But by most accounts, Winfield played at a high level around the line of scrimmage last season. He fared well enough in close quarters to lead the 2012 cornerback rankings at Pro Football Focus.

"Nobody at PFF will try and tell you that Antoine Winfield was the best corner in football last season," Sam Monson wrote for PFF. "That being said, his grade was impressive for a player of his age and, perhaps most notably of all, he graded positively across the board in every area we analyze for the position. Though he may not have been able to touch the top corners when it came to coverage alone, he still ranked inside the Top 20 in that area and teamed with it an ability that is completely unmatched by his cornerback peers -- his play against the run and the short passing game."

Run-stuffing abilities are a bonus, but cornerbacks must cover well, first and foremost. If the Vikings thought Winfield could still cover at a high level, they likely would have made keeping him a higher priority.

Any team signing Winfield would want to tailor a role specifically for his strengths. Adding him would look like a tremendous move on paper for Seattle. Winfield would likely provide a clear upgrade from Trufant. Discovering fresh, young talent at the position also has appeal, however, and there's nothing fresh about a cornerback approaching his 36th birthday. Perhaps the Seahawks can have it both ways in 2013. Signing Winfield could provide some insurance in case a younger player fails to develop right away.