EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Emotional ties weren’t enough for the Minnesota Vikings to keep cornerback Antoine Winfield from finding a new team and a chance at an elusive Super Bowl ring.
Winfield, who will turn 36 in June, has reached an agreement with the Seattle Seahawks on a one-year deal, according to his agent. Winfield, a 14-year veteran, was released by the Vikings on the first day of free agency in a cost-cutting maneuver, saving Minnesota the $7.25 million he was due in the final year of his contract.
Adding Winfield, a three-time Pro Bowler in his nine seasons with the Vikings, gives Seattle one of the best secondaries in the NFL. He visited with the Seahawks on Wednesday and reportedly had been mulling offers from Seattle and the Vikings, who made a move to re-sign one of their veteran defensive leaders after cutting him.
In announcing Winfield’s release, Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman kept open the possibility the cornerback could return. Coach Leslie Frazier and players reportedly reached out to Winfield in the hopes of swaying him to return. A source told FoxSportsNorth.com that Winfield was amazed at the outpouring from Vikings fans, teammates and coaches in trying to get him to re-sign.
But Minnesota made the business decision to release him from his existing contract in March, using the money to sign receiver Greg Jennings, backup quarterback Matt Cassel and several of the team’s free agents. Winfield was working out at the Vikings’ facility the day he was released and was taken aback when called to Spielman’s office to get the news.
Winfield, who played all 16 games last season after missing 11 games the previous year due to injuries, had 101 tackles and tied for the team lead with three interceptions.
Seattle, which has standout starters Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner at cornerback, secures a strong nickel option in Winfield, who is still one of the best tackling corners in the game.
The Seahawks — with the additions of Winfield, former Vikings receiver Percy Harvin and defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to go with young second-year quarterback Russell Wilson — are among the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Winfield’s tackling ability will be a boon in the NFC West, where San Francisco proved difficult to defend with quarterback Colin Kaepernick running the read-option offense.
Winfield visited the Washington Redskins last week, his first visit with a team since being released. Washington eventually re-signed cornerback DeAngelo Hall.