Sigh... well, we all figured it was probably going to happen. We had a glimmer of hope there for a while, as he apparently debated between going to the Pacific Northwest or to stay home. Having practically raised his family in Minnesota, it did seem vaguely possible that he would take the Vikings (likely lesser) offer to return to the team, but apparently the lure of more money for his final NFL contract, and the honestly increased chances of going out with a ring, was too much to overcome.
While I typically declare Vikings who depart for Seattle as dead to me, I cannot and will not do that here. We cut the guy as ruthlessly and coldly as we could, and guess what- when you cut a player, then they might *gasp* go elsewhere. If this surprises Rick Spielman, then someone needs to take a cast iron skillet upside the man's noggin.
This bodes ill on several fronts for us. First off, the players (as well as Leslie Frazier) have been continuously expressing a strong desire to see him return. I'm not sure what effect this will have on the locker room, but you will not convince me that it's not going to hurt morale some. Furthermore, ignoring the issues that his departure creates for our secondary, it places a bit more of a spotlight on the already glaring need at MLB. As I tweeted the other day, when the Vikings switched to the nickel, Winfield practically was a LB- shutting down the shorter routes and terrorizing many a RB. The security blanket we could have had by switching to that formation while our likely drafted rookie MLB learns his chops is now gone. (But no Ted, we're still not going to sign Brian Urlacher.)
Even worse, you might as well chalk up our regular season meeting against Seattle to a loss now. Yes, we surprised lots of people last season. Yes, we might do that again. But guess what- they now have an offensive leader and a defensive leader from our 2012 run on their team for 2013. Ignore the fact that, if there's any CB who can make Adrian Peterson worry its Antoine Winfield- these are guys who are going to have reams of information on what we do and how we do it. Yes, obviously, the playbook will not be identical- we're not the Raiders here. (That's a 2002 Super Bowl reference.) But it won't be so radically different that they won't be able to give some very dangerous info to the coaches. (Also, Pete Carroll is not Brad Childress. That's a 2010 Patriots game reference.) It's not going to be pretty.
It is what it is though. Sooner or later Winfield was not going to be on the Vikings active roster. While it burns fiercely to know that it happened this way, rather than seeing him proudly retire in the purple-and-gold uniform he so rightly belongs in, we just need to accept it and move on. And regardless- Skol Antoine Winfield, and best of luck to you in your final hurrah in the NFL.