The Vikings have released CB Antoine Winfield in a move that saves the team $7.25 million in base salary and gave them more than $20 million in salary-cap space before re-signing any of their own free agents.
The move came only hours before free agency was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Central Tuesday, but Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said the door is left open for Winfield's return.
"Antoine Winfield was a very tough decision. It was a business decision as we move forward," Spielman said. "Antoine is a great football player for us. He's another one that's a tremendous leader and great at what he does in this community. We definitely want to keep the door open on his possible return, but at this time we had to release him in order to get him out in free agency."
Winfield was in the final year of his contract with the Vikings. He originally signed a free agent deal with them in 2004 as Minnesota's front office coaxed him out of the New York Jets' facility as they waited to finalize a deal with him.
Winfield played in all 16 games in 2012, making 15 starts. He had 110 tackles, including 11 for a loss, 13 passes defensed, three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
"Antoine played very well last year. He probably is one of those players that defied odds for his age on what he did for our football team last year. There's no question about what Antoine Winfield does for our football team on the field and off the field as well," Spielman said.
"It was just a very, extremely hard decision to make, but hopefully we'll be able to keep the door open for him."
Winfield will turn 36 in June.
The Vikings are left with Chris Cook, Josh Robinson, A.J. Jefferson (tendered an offer as a restricted free agent), Brandon Burton, Marcus Sherels (tendered an offer as an exclusive rights free agent), Bobby Felder and Roderick Williams as the cornerbacks currently on the team.
"We feel confident the way Josh has developed, and tendering A.J. Jefferson and (having) Chris Cook, we have a couple other young guys that we're going to look at as well," Spielman said. "But by no means do we want to shut out Antoine. I want to hopefully have the door open for his potential return, if that's possible."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Antoine Winfield remains unsigned after the Redskins chose to sign another veteran cornerback, but…