The cornerback was let go and didn’t seem to expect he would be brought back at a cheaper price.
In the middle of a hectic Tuesday, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman came down from his Winter Park office and marched to a podium to debrief the media on a week that already had been wild and was only growing busier.
Yes, Spielman had clearance to officially announce the Percy Harvin trade. But that was Monday’s news, ancient history in a league where the news cycle spins faster than a super-tornado.
And sure, the Vikings’ ability to re-sign right tackle Phil Loadholt minutes before free agency opened Tuesday provided a major boost to the offense.
But unquestionably, the biggest news surrounded the release of cornerback Antoine Winfield, a surprising move that left one of the most respected players in the organization feeling confused and disappointed.
The transaction itself, with Winfield due $7.25 million in 2013, wasn’t a total shock. The Vikings saw that as too much to invest in a soon-to-be 36-year-old cornerback. And creating additional salary cap room might have allowed the organization to better work their plans for re-signing players and exploring the rest of the free agent market.
But, according to an NFL source, the way Winfield’s dismissal unfolded proved incredibly awkward. Cold even. And those are the nice ways of putting it.
Winfield was at Winter Park on Tuesday routinely working out. Approximately an hour before the NFL’s free-agency period opened at 3 p.m., he was summoned upstairs and told he had been cut.
The discussion was brief and unceremonious, the kind of sobering transaction players always are bracing for but never ready for.
“It was a business decision as we move forward,” Spielman explained later.
But then the Vikings GM hinted he wanted to “keep the door open on [Winfield’s] possible return.” And he echoed that sentiment six times during a 15-minute presser.
Yet that “door could still be open” rhetoric felt like a hollow formality to Winfield and his agent, neither of whom had received any contingency plans when communicating with the team 90 minutes earlier.
They were simply led to believe this was likely the end — harsh but necessary.
Winfield, the source said, initially felt confused and blindsided, never led to believe this might be a possibility, without negotiation, in the 11th hour before free agency. The 87-hour window that agents for free agents had for negotiating had passed. Winfield was suddenly out of a job and also playing from way behind in finding a new team.
After nine years in the organization, the cornerback believed he deserved better, that he was owed more. On top of that, the source said, contrary to other published reports, the Vikings never had formally proposed a possible restructuring of Winfield’s contract as a means of keeping him.
And while that wasn’t a pitch the cornerback’s camp had been willing to entertain, the proposal should have been made if the Vikings seriously were entertaining having Winfield back.
Spielman said Tuesday he had “a very good conversation” with Winfield and classified the move to release him as “extremely, extremely difficult.”
What remains to be seen is what the ripple effect will be, both on the depth chart and in the locker room. At present, the Vikings’ cornerback unit is now headlined by Chris Cook with Josh Robinson, A.J. Jefferson, Brandon Burton, Marcus Sherels and Bobby Felder also in the mix.
More so, player reaction likely won’t be favorable after the release of a player as adored as Winfield. This wasn’t any old way-past-his-prime veteran. This was Winfield, the guy who had logged nine seasons with the Vikings, consistently wowing those around him with his unique combination of toughness and intelligence. This was the charismatic leader beloved by the coaching staff. The guy, who in his 14th season epitomized the Vikings’ 2012 resurgence, delivering wonderful production while galvanizing the young secondary around him.
|Minnesota||17||3rd Qtr 2:30|
|Baltimore||7||3rd Qtr 11:10|
|Cleveland||6||3rd Qtr 1:30|
|Atlanta||20||3rd Qtr 0:35|
|Green Bay||13||4th Qtr 10:19|
|Kansas City||6||3rd Qtr 0:34|
|New England||10||4th Qtr 14:06|
|NY Giants||3:05 PM|
|Denver||12/22/14 7:30 PM|
|New York||2:30 PM|
|LA Lakers||5:00 PM|
|New Orleans||6:00 PM|
|Maine||66||1st OT 0:56|
|San Francisco||64||1st OT 0:31|
|Coastal Carolina||68||2nd Half 1:52|
|Holy Cross||23||2nd Half 15:01|
|Southern Miss||35||2nd Half 12:42|
|Western Carolina||29||2nd Half 17:05|
|Creighton||24||2nd Half 15:56|
|Maryland||47||2nd Half 15:27|
|Cornell||38||2nd Half 16:47|
|Vermont||34||2nd Half 12:05|
|Loyola-Maryland||35||2nd Half 14:46|
|Reinhardt||38||2nd Half 17:44|
|Ark-Little Rock||34||2nd Half 11:55|
|TX-Pan American||35||2nd Half 16:36|
|Alabama State||49||2nd Half 20:00|
|Goshen||22||1st Half 2:07|
|Bryant||2||1st Half 15:32|
|Austin Peay||4||1st Half 14:22|
|Tennessee St||0||1st Half 16:00|
|South Dakota||4||1st Half 18:10|
|Northern Ariz||3:00 PM|
|SD Christian||3:00 PM|
|UC Irvine||3:30 PM|
|Seton Hall||5:00 PM|
|Appalachian St||5:30 PM|
|North Dakota St||6:00 PM|
|San Jose St||6:00 PM|
|Alcorn State||8:00 PM|
|Sacramento St||9:00 PM|
|BYU||12/22/14 1:00 PM|
|Marshall||12/23/14 5:00 PM|
|Navy||12/23/14 8:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Central Mich||12/24/14 11:00 AM|
|Fresno State||12/24/14 7:00 PM|
|Illinois||12/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Rutgers||12/26/14 3:30 PM|
|NC State||12/26/14 7:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||12/27/14 12:00 PM|
|Duke||12/27/14 1:10 PM|
|(15) Arizona State|
|Miami-Florida||12/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Boston College||12/27/14 3:30 PM|
|(25) Nebraska||12/27/14 7:00 PM|
|(1) South Carolina||84|
|Mount St Marys||49|
|William & Mary||51|
|South Dakota St||64||FINAL|
|(5) Notre Dame||64|
|Duquesne||56||2nd Half 0:47|
|(3) Texas||53||2nd Half 7:45|
|(4) Texas A&M||57|
|Rhode Island||56||2nd Half 2:02|
|South Florida||37||2nd Half|
|Sam Houston St||28||2nd Half 16:01|
|Evansville||29||2nd Half 16:30|
|(14) Maryland||66||2nd Half 16:48|
|Mercer||37||2nd Half 13:57|
|Coll of Charleston||49|
|NC A&T||17||2nd Half|
|Princeton||52||2nd Half 15:21|
|Eastern Illinois||56||2nd Half 12:06|
|Rider||41||2nd Half 14:36|
|SC State||24||2nd Half 15:34|
|Fairfield||39||2nd Half 14:46|
|Richmond||58||2nd Half 11:18|
|Cleveland State||52||2nd Half 10:56|
|Kent State||35||2nd Half 15:43|
|South Alabama||21||2nd Half 10:33|
|Saint Peters||22||2nd Half 14:27|
|Youngstown St||31||2nd Half 13:10|
|Davidson||15||2nd Half 16:04|
|Indiana State||19||1st Half 8:06|
|Southern U||16||1st Half 3:33|
|Wright State||16||2nd Half|
|(6) North Carolina|
|SE Missouri St|
|(19) Oklahoma St||4||1st Half 13:39|
|Houston||7||1st Half 12:25|
|Ark-Little Rock||6||1st Half 15:55|
|Dayton||5||1st Half 15:07|
|Northern Ariz||5||1st Half 16:18|
|UNC-Asheville||8||1st Half 15:28|
|North Dakota||4||1st Half 15:53|
|Western Ill||11||1st Half 14:02|
|Ball State||3||1st Half 18:53|
|(8) Kentucky||4||1st Half 15:25|
|New Orleans||6||1st Half 14:45|
|Chicago State||6||1st Half 14:36|
|Bowling Green||7||1st Half 16:07|
|Northern Ill||4||1st Half 15:38|
|(23) Iowa||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Central Michigan||2:30 PM|
|Western Carolina||2:30 PM|
|Cal Poly||3:00 PM|
|No Dakota State||3:00 PM|
|Cal State Fullerton|
|Idaho State||3:00 PM|
|(18) Michigan State||3:00 PM|
|Fresno State||4:00 PM|
|St Francis-PA||4:00 PM|
|(10) Louisville||4:00 PM|
|(21) Miss State|