NFL players are much more willing to accept a reduced role when it will come behind elite players, and I wonder if that's part of Antoine Winfield's thought process as he nears an agreement with the Seattle Seahawks. ESPN's Ed Werder reported the impending deal earlier Wednesday.
With the Seahawks, Winfield would play as a nickel cornerback behind starters Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, arguably the NFL's top tandem. He would be appropriately positioned on a top defense rather than artificially bumped down the depth chart to make room for younger players. The Minnesota Vikings were also planning a reduced role before releasing Winfield last month, but presumed starters Chris Cook and Josh Robinson don't measure up to what the Seahawks boast. If I'm Winfield, I'm more willing to step back for Sherman and Browner than Cook or Robinson, neither of whom outplayed him last season.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has repeatedly expressed interest in bringing back Winfield, but they lost their exclusivity by releasing him rather than negotiating a reduced salary first. It's not entirely clear why the Vikings did it that way, and it makes you wonder if Frazier wanted Winfield back more than some of the organization's other decision-makers.
I don't think Winfield harbors ill will toward the Vikings. He's simply taking advantage of his opportunity as a free agent to shop for the best situation. The Seahawks probably offer that.