After signing cornerback Cedric Griffin to a five-year contract extension last week, the Vikings made it clear they also want to keep veteran Antoine Winfield as the starter opposite Griffin beyond the 2009 season.
Winfield’s contract is due to expire after this coming season, it will be his 11th in the NFL, but the Vikings and Winfield’s reps already have begun talks.
“We’re having a pretty good dialogue with the agent right now,” Vikings coach Brad Childress said during the NFL owners meetings in Dana Point, Calif. “It’s ongoing and we’d like to get him done.
“With the uncertain future and the (collective bargaining agreement) the way it is, I’d like to have it done. It could be one year, it could be two, it could be three. But, again, we have a real good dialogue with (agent) Ashanti Webb right now.”
This is certainly a contrast to after Childress’ first season as coach in 2006. Winfield did not take part in the Vikings offseason program that year and while neither Winfield nor Childress has gone into specifics, the two clearly did not see eye-to-eye on some issues.
The relationship, however, eventually was mended and now there is a chance Winfield could finish his career with the Vikings.
Griffin, a second-round pick out of Texas in 2006, showed improvement in the second half of last season and was rewarded for his play. His contract is worth just over $25 million and includes $10 million in guarantees.
Those numbers are fair but not spectacular for a starting corner. Griffin was nearing the end of his rookie contract and under normal circumstances he would have forfeited a chance to become a free agent by signing.
However, if a new CBA is not reached before next offseason, Griffin would not have been an unrestricted free agent until after six seasons instead of four.
Griffin has started 38 games for the Vikings. He has three interceptions and has forced seven fumbles, and ranked second on the team last year with 100 tackles. He had an interception in the Vikings’ playoff loss to Philadelphia.
“It was an easy decision,” said Griffin, the Vikings’ starting right corner. “It’s a great feeling knowing the Vikings are committed to me. I’m definitely happy because of where this team is heading. I love where the defense is. I love where the offense is. I love the coaches. I think the Vikings are putting together a team to make a run at the Super Bowl, and I’m glad to be a part of it. And I’m glad that this also gives my family security.”
Vikings coach Brad Childress was asked about center Matt Birk’s decision to sign with Baltimore after playing in Minnesota since 1998. The Vikings did not begin negotiations with Birk until free agency neared and there was a feeling that Childress and Birk did not have the best relationship. “The same sentiment was there like with (nose tackle) Pat Williams a couple years ago when we got him done right before training camp,” Childress said. “We could have started a year earlier but the fact is when someone wants to test the market you can’t fight with that, with someone wanting to do something new and different. At this point of his life that’s the spot where he was. He is going to come back to St. Paul after his career, but to get away from family and reach out and spread your wings a little bit, that’s something you can’t put a dollar figure on. I had no issues with Matt.”
The Vikings signed wide receiver and kick returner Glenn Holt to a one-year contract after the Bengals declined to make him an offer as a restricted free agent. Holt said the Bengals did later try to keep him and that the Browns also showed interest. “One of my goals is to win a Super Bowl,” Holt said. “I think the Vikings definitely are closer than the Bengals and Browns.”
The Vikings’ pursuit of free-agent fullback Leonard Weaver ended when he decided to sign with the Eagles. Weaver, who had been with Seattle, would have been a good fit in Minnesota because of his familiarity with the West Coast offense.
There had been rumors the Vikings might play in the regular-season Thursday night opener at Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh on NBC but that honor will go to the Tennessee Titans. The Vikings, who have opened on a Monday night twice since Brad Childress took over as head coach in 2006, won’t get a prime-time game on opening weekend this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We’re picking at 22 and 54 in the first two rounds and there will be good players there. We just have to get the best guys that will make an impact, no matter what position they play. Sometimes when you are evaluating and need a position, there is a tendency with, say, a second-round guy to push that guy up. You shouldn’t do that. You have to stay disciplined to your board. We’re in a position where we can improve at different positions with whoever we select.” — Vikings coach Brad Childress on his team’s draft strategy.