When Antoine Winfield was released last month, shock waves hit stunned Vikings fans. While it was understandable given Winfield’s age (36) and his 2013 salary cap hit ($7.25 million), along with the fact that so many other veterans had agreed to salary reductions to avoid being released, the prevailing thought was that news would come a couple of days later that Winfield and the Vikings had agreed to a new contract for a less money.
That second announcement never came. What has followed has been a series of reports that head coach Leslie Frazier would like to see Winfield come back to the Vikings, but also that Winfield is testing the open market. Two weeks ago, it appeared as though Winfield was heading to Washington to join the Redskins, only that have Washington re-sign veteran DeAngelo Hall – leaving the impression that Winfield was used as a bargaining chip in order to get Hall to sign.
Now the Vikings have to face another challenge if they legitimately have an interest in bringing Winfield back.
Reports on the NFL’s official website have confirmed that Winfield is expected to head to Seattle this week to discuss a potential contract with the Seahawks. The Vikings and Seahawks have been no strangers in recent years, which could lend to the belief that Winfield could end up as the latest piece of the puzzle in the expanding arms race going on in the NFC West.
The Vikings and Seahawks have had their respective franchises intertwined in recent years. It was Minnesota that started the internal battle with Seattle when it made history with the infamous “poison pill” contract offered to Steve Hutchinson. Hutch was upset that the Seahawks tendered him as a transition free agent offer that would allow other teams to offer him a contract that could have the stipulation in it that would make it difficult to match. When the Vikings structured a contract that would make Hutchinson the highest paid member of the Seattle offensive line (and guarantee his entire contract) a year after left tackle Walter Jones signed a mega-buck deal, Seattle was forced into passing on matching the contract offer. Since then, Seattle has exacted its own form of revenge.
It began with the immediate retaliation – signing Nate Burleson to a “poison pill” deal that included language that would guarantee his contract if he played too many games in the State of Minnesota – another deal that made it all but impossible for the Vikings to match the offer. But, it didn’t stop there.
Many Vikings fans held Seattle responsible for the Vikings collapse in 2011. After Sidney Rice had surgery the day after Brett Favre announced he was coming back in 2010, the relationship between Rice and the Vikings deteriorated. When he became a free agent in 2011, Seattle jumped at the chance and signed him away from Minnesota, offering more guaranteed money than the Vikings were willing to give.
The Seahawks also added Percy Harvin in trade last month to continue the trend of Vikings players heading west to be part of the Seahawks organization. That means their top two receivers, Rice and Harvin, will be former Vikings.
There have been others, too, including QB Tarvaris Jackson (now with the Bills) and LB Heath Farwell. They also added Vikings castoffs Steven Hauschka, Ryan Longwell and Patrick Chukwurah over the past two years.
Will Winfield be the next in the ongoing battle between the Vikings and Seahawks? Considering how much teams in the NFC West are trying to amass talent, it wouldn’t be a surprise, but it would be a shame. It seems as though Winfield is testing free agency with the legitimate hope of landing somewhere else and, given its history of getting back at the Vikings for the Hutchinson poison pill deal, Seattle may be the landing spot that Winfield is looking for.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.