Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Antoine Winfield's contract situation

So, Antoine Winfield is unhappy and wants a new contract (Kudos, BTW, to the fine editors at Yahoo! Sports, for giving us the headline "Winfied frustrated with Vikes, contract situation." Who is this "Winfied"?) On the down side, contract issues are never fun to deal with. On the bright side, it gives us something to talk about that's not related to Brett Favre -- well, not directly, at least.

The 2009 season will be the last on the massive, 6-year, $34.8 million contract Winfield signed after the 2003 season. An athlete with a frontloaded contract (I think Winfield's due to make just around $3 million this year) wanting to tear up his last year and negotiate a new deal isn't anything new. On some level, I can sympathize with Winfield wanting to do that...

...if he hadn't done the same thing two years ago, that is.

Yes, way back when I first started blogging, one of my first posts was about Antoine Winfield's issues with his contract in the summer of 2007, when he still had three of the six years left on his deal. (Or maybe he didn't, though I think this was more about damage control and PR management than about anything else.) Now, here we are in the same situation, two years later. Winfield's still under contract, still obligated to play for the team through 2009, and still grousing about how the team doesn't see him as valuable enough to sign to a new deal.

To which I say: He probably isn't.

Antoine Winfield is a terrific tackler, no question. As a cover corner, though, he's probably not much more than average, and he's just turned 32 years old. When the 2010 season starts, he'll be 33. I realize Winfield's never been much of an interceptor, but consider this: of the 278 players who have intercepted 8 or more passes in a single season, five of them were age 33 or older. That leads me to believe that defensive backs -- especially defensive backs who are already losing a step or two at ages 31-32 -- don't make for good long-term investments at the age of 33 and up.

One legitimate complaint Winfield has is certainly the team's apparent interest in signing him to a deal earlier in the offseason, a plan that has apparently been derailed since the love affair between Brett Favre and Brad Childress started. On the one hand, you can understand Winfield being frustrated by the apparent reneging of the promise; on the other hand, he's worked with Brad Childress long enough by now that he should know that what he says and what he does rarely have any connection.

As with any aging, popular player (see Matt Birk), fans tend to look past their current and potential future contributions and focus solely on what they've done for the team in the past. You might occasionally get lucky and see a player return to form for a short while, but when you sign an aging player to a big contract, you're likely just paying for his past performance. Add in Winfield's semi-annual griping about his contract -- still a great deal, even with the explosion in cornerback salaries in recent years -- or the direction of the team and I have no problem letting him go after 2009.


Peter said...

Agreed. If Winfield will sign a deal for safety-like money, then I think it'd be OK to keep him on a couple more years. Otherwise, he can go.

I was talking to DC about this and he wisely pointed out that with a good pass rush, cover corners are less important. Winfield's a great leader and makes some pretty awesome plays every once in a while (see last year's sack/strip/TD or field goal block return for a TD), but he's just not vital enough to the team to break the bank. And with Favre in limbo, it's difficult to make any significant financial decisions.

Someone will be willing to overpay him, and he'll be suiting up for them in 2010. Just like Sharper for the Saints, or, like you said, Birk for the Ravens.

Cdub said...

It could be argued (with stats or without) that Winfield has played better and better each year with the Vikings, finally reaching the pro bowl for the first time last year. I definately agree that we need a pass defensive focused corner, but if we lose winfield what are our options? Probably the draft?

There's a chance Winfield keeps playing better, but I agree it will have to tail off at some point due to age. You just have to wonder if that age is at 33?