Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.

Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.

Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Antoine Winfield released as opening of free agency nears

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, NFC, Antoine Winfield Updated: March 12, 2013 - 1:50 PM

Antoine Winfield's 15th NFL season won't come in Minnesota. 

The Vikings have released the sure-tackling cornerback and locker room leader as the 3 p.m. opening bell for free agency closes in, an NFL source has confirmed.

Winfield, who turns 36 on June 24, was the 23rd overall pick of the Bills in 1999. He played five seasons in Buffalo before joining the Vikings in 2004. He went on to become arguably the best unrestricted free agent acquisition in teams history over the next nine seasons.

Winfield was due to make $7.25 million in the final year of his current contract. Although his age didn't mesh with the team's youth movement, Winfield was expected to finish out his contract, serving as both a veteran presence and one of the team's best defensive players. 

Winfield was not willing to take a pay cut this season, which could have been a factor in today's decision.

What the Vikings do with the extra cap room -- they're roughly $20 million under the cap -- remains to be seen. They've re-signed receiver Jerome Simpson, but are still in the market for a No. 1 receiver. The Vikings aren't expected to chase after UFA receiver Mike Wallace, who is expected to get $11 million a year or more. Then again, the Vikings weren't expected to release Winfield. So hang on. This ride could get even wilder before it ends.


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters