Antoine Winfield may be midway through the teen years of his NFL career after being cut loose by the Minnesota Vikings, but the veteran cornerback could easily prove the most critical free-agent signing of this offseason.
While the Seattle Seahawks didn’t feel the overwhelming need to play a ton of nickel last year with the league’s best secondary starting four in free safety Earl Thomas, strong safety Kam Chancellor, and cornerback Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, the option to do so and flexibility provided by Winfield make this addition absolutley critical. It will be interesting to see what the Seahawks dream up in training camp.
“What it means to us is that we feel like we can match up,” Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said, via The Associated Press. “That we have no problem in any matchups, we have some great slot players that we have to play and those guys can match up and will be able to play man-to-man and we’ll count on those guys to win their one-on-ones. I feel more confident now than at any time in the years we’ve been here with the depth and that kind of experience there.”
Winfield will almost undoubtedly begin the season as Seattle’s No. 1 slot corner barring injury. STATS Inc. has Winfield rated as third in the league in slot coverage with a 74 quarterback rating against, compared to 93 for current slot man Desmond Trufant.
Winfield only stands at about 5-9, 180 pounds, but consistently ranks among the top of cornerback rankings in Pro Football Focus tackling metrics. His ability to bring that element at such an incredible level helped boost him to the top PFF overall grading for cornerbacks in 2012, marking the third time.
The Seahawks were among the top four or five Super Bowl favorites before the signing, and the rich got richer with Winfield.
“They have an opportunity to do something that I dream about every night and that’s win a championship,” Winfield said. “…I don’t have too much time left. This is Year 15 for me so I’m trying to get it this year.”