Vikings coach reaches out to Antoine Winfield, not ruling out reunion
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PHOENIX -- Rick Spielman always says he won't close the door on anyone returning to the Minnesota Vikings. In the case of Antoine Winfield, it appears that's not just lip service.
Exiting a coaches meeting on Sunday afternoon at the NFL meetings in the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, coach Leslie Frazier said he has spoken with Winfield since the veteran cornerback's surprise release on Tuesday and neither side is ruling out a reunion.
"I'm hoping that we can figure out a way to get him back here," Frazier said. "So, I'm hoping that it's not goodbye yet."
According to NFL sources, there have been discussions between Winfield's agent, Ashanti Webb, and the Vikings about bringing him back. Winfield, 35, has gotten over the initial shock of the decision and apparently is willing to listen.
But the 14-year veteran has multiple visits lined up with other NFL teams and it's unclear how much money the Vikings are willing to put on the table for a player they just let go.
"Him and I talked a few days ago, before I came up here, and I don't want the door to be shut," Frazier said. "So, we're going to still try to get something worked out -- if he's amicable to coming back."
That remains a question five days after Winfield received a call to come to the general manager's office during his workout at Winter Park and received the news from Spielman.
He had been due $7.25 million in 2013, and the Vikings broached the possibility of a pay cut in a meeting with his agent weeks earlier at the NFL scouting combine. But there was no further dialogue until Winfield was released a couple hours before free agency opened on Tuesday.
The move came shortly after the Vikings re-signed right tackle Phil Loadholt to a four-year, $25 million contract -- well above the $5 million average the team had planned to spend on him. They re-signed five other players the same day and added free-agent receiver Greg Jennings and quarterback Matt Cassel before the week was over.
Asked if Winfield's release caught him by surprise, Frazier said, "Not a surprise. We talked about internally where things were at financially and what we were going to try to do this offseason. Just hope that things can be worked out."
As it stands now, the cornerback depth chart is topped by Chris Cook, who has missed 26 games in three NFL seasons because of injuries and other issues; Josh Robinson, a third-round pick last year who fell out of the rotation by the end of his rookie season; and A.J. Jefferson, a subpackage contributor who received the low restricted tender.
Frazier acknowledged the Vikings must find a way to fortify the position, whether that includes Winfield or not.
"Without question," Frazier said. "We'll still look at what's out there from the NFL perspective, but also in the draft. We need more depth at that position. As you know, you can't ever have enough good corners in our league. So, we need to keep upgrading that position."