Minnesota Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield had a very productive 2012 season, tying for the team lead in interceptions with three and totaling 100 tackles (71 solo). 2013 will be the final season of his contract, and playing time escalators from last season boosted his base salary to $7.25 million. Winfield will also be 36 years old before next season, his 15th in the NFL and 10th with the Vikings, starts.
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier has stated for a second straight offseason that the team would like to reduce Winfield’s role next season, which should help him avoid some of the injuries that have hampered him in recent seasons. In fact a potential part-time role for Winfield, or perhaps a move to safety, has been anticipated for the last few years.
The plan to mimimize Winfield’s role last season was derailed by Chris Cook’s broken arm in Week 8 and rookie Josh Robinson’s lack of progress as the season went on, leading to the veteran playing nearly 90 percent of the Vikings’ defensive snaps. That amount of playing time would certainly have been even greater if not for a broken right hand, which limited Winfield in the final two regular season games as well as Minnesota’s playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card Round.
If the new plan to reduce Winfield’s playing time is to come to fruition in 2013, the Vikings need to bolster their cornerback depth via free agency and the draft. Adding another capable veteran would be the best move, since it remains to be seen if Robinson can be effective in a bigger role and Cook can remain healthy (or out of the police blotter) for long enough to realize his potential. In any case, Winfield will surely perform well in whatever role he is ultimately asked to fill.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.