Antoine Winfield: Minnesota Vikings Made Huge Mistake Releasing Veteran CB

Mike Moraitis@@michaelmoraitisAnalyst IMarch 12, 2013

The Minnesota Vikings have released veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield, a huge mistake by the organization.

According to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com, Minnesota has cut ties with the 35-year-old who was set to make $7.25 million in base salary during the 2013 season and refused to take a pay cut.

There are some positives to this move considering the money the Vikings will save this offseason and the fact that Winfield is getting up there in age. Also, per Pelissero's report, Winfield was expected to have a reduced role with the team next season, although it's hard to figure out why.

This was a blunder for several reasons.

For starters, Winfield had one of the best seasons of his career in 2012 after compiling 101 combined tackles (72 solo), which was good enough for the second-highest season total of his career. Winfield also racked up a career-high 12 pass deflections and added three interceptions as well.

Those kinds of numbers are an even bigger loss to Minnesota's defense when you consider the opposing quarterbacks NFC North rivals boast: Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears and Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions.

Not to mention the impact Winfield can have on the run defense as a guy who can make tackles and get into the backfield to force negative plays.

Winfield has become a sensational slot cornerback in the NFL during his career and that's a role that has become increasingly important as slot receivers are more prominent in the league today.

Beyond the tangible qualities Winfield brings to the table, he is also an excellent leader on the field. In a Minnesota secondary that doesn't have much experience, Winfield was the veteran who added years of knowledge to the Vikings younger defensive back unit.

Releasing Winfield will now leave the Vikings with a void in their secondary. It won't be easy to replace all the production lost.

It remains to be seen if the Vikings will select a cornerback in the draft as a replacement, given the package of picks they received for Percy Harvin.

Either way, Winfield may prove to be an impossibly tough act to follow.

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