Rarely when your team schedules a visit with a soon to be 36 year old cornerback should you be excited, but today might be the exception to that rule. Antoine Winfield is scheduled to visit Seattle this week as the Seahawks try to address something of a question mark at the nickel corner position. Although Walter Thurmond and Jeremy Lane are candidates for this spot Winfield is a definite upgrade.
The first concern with Winfield is his age given that he is 35, turning 36 in June. To be wary of an old player at such a physically demanding position is natural but Winfield does not seem to be slowing down. The 5-9 190 lb corner started 15 games last year and played in all 16, and while he has missed 17 games in the last four years, he comes in without any current injury concerns. After injury the second most important concern about aging players is declining performance. Winfield puts this concern to rest given that his 2012 season was one of the best in his 14 year career. He had three interceptions, tied for his 3rd best career total, and 12 passes defended which was tied for 2nd best in his career. These numbers suggest that Winfield hasn’t lost enough to be a liability in coverage, even if the reality is that pure coverage has never been his specialty.
The real reason why this potential signing is so brilliant is because Antoine Winfield fits perfectly with what Pete Carroll likes to do on defense. Arguably his greatest talent is in run support, which is a point of emphasis for this defense since Carroll has been in Seattle. Defending the run was also a greater weakness than many realized in 2012 as the Seahawks conceded a problematic 4.5 yards per carry. Additionally, Winfield has shown the ability to get to the quarterback on the cornerback blitz, something that Pete Carroll is very fond of, especially out of the slot. In the last five seasons Antoine Winfield has produced 6.5 sacks, which is not a staggering number but not an irrelevant one either for a cornerback. When one considers that games missed over that span it is even more impressive. Winfield can clearly be an interesting occasional weapon rushing the passer out of the slot, something that makes him even more appealing to the Seahawks.
A visit is no guarantee of a signing but this one caught my eye because Antoine Winfield appears to be a really good fit for this Seattle team. As a Super Bowl contender the Seahawks should be looking to sign older players at a discounted price to help them win over the short term the way the Patriots have been doing for years. I don’t know exactly what Antoine Winfield’s price is but I can’t imagine he would be particularly cost prohibitive and it seems like he would be an excellent addition due to his ability to stop the run, rush the passer, and hold up in in coverage, even during his twilight years.