The Minnesota Vikings' secondary made some pretty significant strides in 2012, and while the addition of safety Harrison Smith had a lot to do with that, it also helped that Antoine Winfield. . .the elder statesman of the Vikings at the age of 35. . .had himself one of the better seasons of his 13-year NFL career. He played the same hard-nosed style against the run that he's been known for his entire career, and his coverage skills showed that he's not just getting older, he's getting better as well.
Unfortunately, with cloning technology not anywhere near what it would need to be to give the Vikings a dozen Antoine Winfields, he's probably getting near the end of the line. With that being the case, the Vikings have expressed that they would like to not have to rely on Winfield so heavily going forward.
"I hope going forward that's not the case, that he doesn't need to be playing 60, 70 snaps (a game)," Frazier said of Winfield last week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
"It's not good for him. I don't think it's the best thing for our team. We need him to be able to stay healthy, help us in the classroom, help us on the field. So, we definitely want him back, but we do need to reduce his snaps."
Frazier hinted at a similar plan one year ago, when Winfield -- approaching his 36th birthday this summer -- was coming off a 2011 season derailed by a neck strain and a broken collarbone.
As the article notes, that was supposed to be the plan for 2012 as well. But the combination of Chris Cook's broken arm and Josh Robinson's slower-than-hoped-for progress conspired to have Winfield on the playing field for 89.8% of the Vikings' defensive snaps this past season.
This could also be something to try to justify asking Winfield to restructure his contract. According to Spotrac, Winfield's cap hit for the upcoming season is $7.25 million, and the Vikings would no doubt like to reduce that number.
Antoine Winfield is one of my favorite Vikings ever, and I would love to see him finish his career in purple. Hopefully, player and team can work something out that would be beneficial for both sides and allow that to happen.