It’s a story as old as time: Man has the woman of his dreams, takes her for granted, woman and man break up, and in the near future, the man struggles as the woman of his dreams flirts with other men.
Now, throw a football spin onto it, and that’s the situation the Minnesota Vikings are in.
They had a nine-year relationship with cornerback Antoine Winfield. The two had some good times.
Minnesota reached the postseason four times during Winfield’s tenure, including the 2009 NFC Championship, and Winfield was named to the Pro Bowl three times.
It was the perfect relationship, until Minnesota pulled the rug out from underneath Winfield and released the 14-year veteran when he would not reduce his 2013 salary down from $7.25 million.
Now, the Vikings are, as Frankie Valli would say, working their way back to their babe. But there are other suitors calling on him, too.
Winfield is scheduled to meet with the Washington Redskins on Wednesday, and there are reportedly two mystery teams (per a report by Mike Jones of the Washington Post) interested in him beyond Minnesota and Washington. And there should be. The man still plays a mean defensive back.
Winfield was rated as the top cornerback last season by Pro Football Focus while recording 100 tackles and intercepting three passes.
Despite breaking Winfield’s heart, a return to Minnesota should not be eliminated.
For the most part, Winfield has proven himself to be a loyal player during the era of free agency. The former Ohio State Buckeye has played for only two teams during his career: Minnesota and the Buffalo Bills.
The 35-year-old appears to have a strong relationship with head coach Leslie Frazier, who was his defensive coordinator from 2007-2010 and his head coach 2010 up until his release this month. Having an opportunity to play for Frazier is a positive for Minnesota.
But the Vikings expect him to take a pay cut and cut in playing time—Minnesota said it wanted Winfield strictly in its nickel package—should he return.
Those two points are MAJOR blows to Minnesota’s chances of reacquiring Winfield.
But at 35 going on 36 years old, Winfield has to be thinking about returning to the postseason and competing for a Super Bowl.
Minnesota is coming off a postseason appearance in 2012 and returns much of that same team in 2013—with Greg Jennings supplementing Percy Harvin. That’s a plus.
Whether Winfield dons purple and gold in 2013 will depend on his belief in Minnesota’s ability to win relative to his other suitors combined with the money and playing time offers. I expect winning is most important on the list with money as the bottom feeder.
Washington offers a similar situation to Minnesota, but a potentially better one with the quarterback position manned by a currently injured Robert Griffin III, who reportedly is rehabbing well from his torn ACL, compared to an inconsistent Christian Ponder. Both teams competed in the NFC’s Wild Card Weekend and lost.
All of that being said and not knowing who these other suitors are, it feels as if Winfield’s time in Minnesota has passed.
Winfield still plays at a Pro Bowl level, which means he should draw contract and playing-time offers similar to—or better than—Minnesota's.
But the fact that Winfield’s still considering a return to Minnesota suggests he still likes the organization.
Knowing the two mystery teams would make this situation much clearer, but my gut says Winfield isn't a Viking in 2013. The field has too much to offer relative to Minnesota.
Chance Winfield returns to Minnesota: 35 percent