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Updated: December 12th, 2011 1:52pm
Clause triggered in Antoine Winfield's contract alters compensation

Clause triggered in Antoine Winfield's contract alters compensation

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- If Antoine Winfield returns with the Minnesota Vikings next season, he'll do so at a bargain rate. But the veteran cornerback can supplement his reduced base salary if his playing time increases as part of a contract that now is heavily performance-based.

Winfield confirmed on Monday the injuries that limited him to five games this season triggered a playing-time clause in his contract, de-escalating his base salary from $7 million to $3 million next season.

The reduction provides a more team-friendly salary and cap figure for a 13-year veteran who will turn 35 in June. But the reduced salary also makes it more likely Winfield will stick on a rebuilding roster, and an NFL source said he can make back the $4 million in incentives, based on hitting different benchmarks for the percentage of snaps he plays.

"My agent discussed that," Winfield said. "Being 34 years old and starting is rare. That's why we put it in there."

Winfield's contract runs through 2013, when his scheduled base salary is $7.25 million. That number could be reduced, too, depending what role he ends up playing next season. Any incentives he earns would be paid out in bonus installments after the season.

The Vikings placed Winfield on injured reserve on Nov. 16, two days after he fractured his collarbone while making a tackle in a loss at Green Bay. He previously missed four games with a neck strain, and the combination of those extended absences triggered a de-escalator that is based on playing a specified percentage of the defensive snaps.

The clause in the five-year, $33.6 million extension Winfield signed in July 2009 often has been described as a reduction if Winfield was made the Vikings' nickelback instead of a starter. However, an NFL source confirmed there is no provision for injuries, although the reduced salary only helps his chances for surviving a possible exodus of high-priced veterans this coming offseason.

"You know what? It is a business," Winfield said. "I understand that. I really don't know what the future holds. But I expect to. Yeah. I expect to be around here."

Winfield had surgery last month. He said he has regained all movement, will resume lifting weights in a couple of weeks and expects to be full-strength by April, meaning he could participate in the team's organized team activities and minicamps next spring.

It's the second time in two years Winfield has battled significant injury trouble, following his bout with foot problems in 2009. But he laughed off the idea he might be ready to call it quits.

"Oh, no, no," Winfield said. "I love the game. I still enjoy going out there, playing. Enjoy the locker room, being around the guys. I have two more years on my contract here and I expect to play those out."

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.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
In this story: Antoine Winfield
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