Editorial: What were the Vikings thinking?

Published 9:57 am Thursday, March 14, 2013

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield was completely surprised by the team’s decision to release him.

And so were we and the Vikings fan base.

Winfield had been told by coach Leslie Frazier that he needs this veteran on the field to lead the young guys. All indications from the front office showed the team favored keeping him.

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Winfield’s numbers show why he is an asset worth keeping. He had 101 tackles and three interceptions last season, and the Vikings’ secondary was noticeably weaker when he wasn’t on the field.

Accoring to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Winfield had been working out and was summoned upstairs and handed his walking papers. A Star-Tribune writer said the dismissal was “incredibly awkward” and “cold.”

The guy played excellent football for nine years, and the Vikings simply booted him like a struggling second-year player.

Moreover, the dismissal came an hour before the free agency was to start. This gave Winfield and his agent — both of whom had been led to believe the Vikes wanted to keep Winfield — no time to prepare going into the meeting. They were blindsided.

The Vikings need to display more class for longtime players who become fan favorites, whether they play offense or defense. Will someday the Vikes cut running back Adrian Peterson in this fashion?

We can see why the Vikings let go of receiver Percy Harvin. He brought discord to the club. Fine. But Winfield did his job and was a true professional.

The reason the Vikings cut Winfield no doubt has to do with money. Winfield was due $7.25 million in 2013, and the Vikings must have wanted more room under their salary cap to get young blood going into free agency and the draft. Winfield is about to turn 36.

Regardless of the money, Winfield had been loyal to the Vikings for nearly a decade, and fans liked him. The other players adored him. His solid NFL career is as a Viking. He was a reason to tune in and watch the team on television.

So what was gained by the Vikings’ action? Disgruntled players. Upset fans. A shallow reputation for General Manager Rick Spielman.

Way to go, guys. Real smart.

Winfield deserved smarter, more honest negotiations with team officials, and if the Vikings were unable to reach a deal at that point, then Winfield deserved an honorable sendoff.

Let’s hope the Vikings can fix this heartless error.