Updated: March 28th, 2013 10:23pm
Antoine Winfield's future remains unclear after visit with Redskins

Antoine Winfield's future remains unclear after visit with Redskins

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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Antoine Winfield's future was no clearer on Thursday night after a day of being wooed, wined and dined by the Washington Redskins didn't immediately yield a deal.

Winfield, 35, has been a free agent since the Minnesota Vikings released him on March 12, stunning the veteran cornerback just hours before free agency opened.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has made clear he'd like Winfield to return, and members of the organization have been in daily contact with his representatives, according to NFL sources.

But there has been strong interest from several teams, including the Redskins, whose contingent at dinner with Winfield on Thursday night featured owner Dan Snyder, coach Mike Shanahan, members of the defensive staff and quarterback Robert Griffin III, NFL Network reported.

The problem with Washington, among other suitors, is a shortage of cap space. Washington was only about $3.3 million under its adjusted (and heavily penalized) cap as of Thursday night.

Other potential options among contenders, including Denver ($8.8 million in cap space) and Seattle ($6.8 million), aren't exactly working with a lot either, though that hurdle could be mitigated by doing a two-year deal that ties up much of the compensation in a signing bonus.

The Vikings are around $5 million under the cap, and they'll almost surely have to clear more space just to sign their draft class and fill out the 90-man roster for training camp.

They raised the topic of a pay cut from $7.25 million to about $3 million at the NFL scouting combine in late February, sources said, and intended to move Winfield into a part-time role.

That might be the plan no matter where Winfield ends up, since his strength is blitzing, run support and short-area coverage from the slot, which he still mans as well as anyone in nickel.

"It all kind of comes down to money," said one NFL personnel man who studied Winfield further after his release. "My biggest problem with him is he just cannot run.

"He's still good in the short area. He's obviously instinctive, tough as (expletive). He's the perfect nickel guy. It's just, if you're asking him to cover guys 20 yards downfield, he's not going to be able to do it, because he can't run. But you love everything else about his game."

Winfield is believed to be angling for $3 million to $5 million on a one-year deal. Money hasn't exactly been flowing for cornerbacks -- or most anyone else -- in free agency, though. 

One year after Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan signed deals averaging about $10 million a year, Cary Williams (three years, $17 million with Philadelphia) and Sean Smith (three years, $16.5 million with Kansas City) topped the cornerback market at barely half of that.

Eight other corners signed deals worth at least $3 million a year before March 16 -- and since then, spending has dried up. Brice McCain got three years and $5.25 million from Houston. E.J. Biggers (Washington) and Antoine Cason (Arizona) took one-year, $1.5 million deals.

There's no question the Vikings are hurting for depth at the position. If the season began today, they'd likely start Chris Cook and A.J. Jefferson outside, with Josh Robinson playing the slot in nickel. Plus, Cook and Jefferson can become unrestricted free agents after the season.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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