That would have left Winfield in the same boat as now-former Vikings like Matt Birk and Darren Sharper, very good veteran players who allowed their contracts to expire, only to find little to no interest from management in a return. Birk is now with Baltimore, while Sharper signed in New Orleans. Winfield, however, was able to avoid walking down that path, as he agreed to a new deal Thursday.
The contract, as reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, is quite unique. In fact, Winfield's agent told the paper that he's never seen one like it before.
The design of it is to protect the Vikings in case the 32-year-old Winfield's skill diminish to the point that he is no longer a starting cornerback on the team. It also protects Winfield if he's still a high-caliber player deep into his 30s, something that is definitely possible but doesn't happen often.
The compromise they came to on Thursday is an interesting one and could be termed a de-esclator and potentially esclator clause. The verbiage states that if Winfield loses his starting job in 2011 and moves to the nickel role, the following season his salary of $7 million will be cut in half, meaning he will be paid as a top nickel corner rather than a top starting corner. But if Winfield eventually gets the starting job back his salary will jump back up to its previous terms.Safe to say that the Vikings may have opened a door that other teams had only dreamed of in the past. For any player approaching their 30s, it will be very interesting to watch how Winfield's deal plays out.
What this means is that if Winfield loses his job, the Vikings won't be tempted to cut him because he's making way too much money. And Winfield won't be looking for a raise in either situation because he would be well compenstated for the position he plays.
On the surface, both sides look like geniuses. After all, the Vikings took care of their ability to spend wisely in future years, and Winfield is protected whether his skills diminish or not. The contract also gives Winfield plenty of incentive to keep working hard, because his performance on the field will always be tied into his salary. If he slips too much, he's looking at a 50 percent pay cut.
When the Vikings signed All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson in 2006, they inserted a "poison pill" clause that prevented the Seahawks from having any serious chance of matching the offer sheet. Three years later, Minnesota appears to have again gotten innovative in the construction of a player contract.