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Antoine Winfield brings his skills to Seahawks secondary
An already good Seahawks secondary just got better.
That will happen when you add Antoine Winfield, a former three-time Pro Bowl player, as the nickel back in a group that already includes All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and Pro Bowl-caliber performers in strong safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Brandon Browner.
“With him, it’s all about his anticipation and his instincts,” general manager John Schneider said Wednesday, when the addition of Winfield in free agency was officially announced. “He’s seen so much inside (as the nickel back). He’s comfortable playing in there.
“He’s a very aggressive football player. He throws his body around.”
Despite his aggressive style, Winfield has had six 16-start seasons in his career.
Winfield, who will turn 36 in June, entered the league in 1999 as the Buffalo Bills’ first-round draft choice after a senior season at Ohio State when he was named All-American and voted the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back.
He signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2004, and the Vikings were trying to re-sign him after releasing Winfield last month in a salary-cap move.
“Quite frankly, his agent was very aggressive in reaching out to us and expressing Antoine’s interest in playing with this defensive backfield and our defense, and had heard a lot of good things about this organization,” Schneider said.
“Minnesota was trying to re-sign him, so he had a lot of angst for I’d say probably four or five days. We stayed after it on our side.”
That included coach Pete Carroll, new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and lead contract negotiator Matt Thomas continued to recruit Winfield.
“They all did a great job of staying in touch with Antoine and his agent,” Schneider said. “And we were able to come to an agreement.”
With the Vikings, Winfield was voted to the Pro Bowl three consecutive seasons (2008-10) and last season he had 101 tackles, three interceptions and 12 passes defensed in 15 starts – including five tackles in the Vikings’ Week 9 loss to the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. His passes defensed last season were a career high, while the tackles and interceptions were the second-highest totals in his 13 NFL seasons.
Winfield is 5 feet 9, 180 pounds, but he plays bigger, as his career totals indicate: 1,170 tackles and 27 interceptions.
“He’s always been a player that has compensated for that (lack of size) with his intensity, his instincts and his tackling skills,” Schneider said. “He’s always been a phenomenal run-support player.”
Now, he brings those skills to a Seahawks secondary that helped the defense allow the fewest points in the league last season and rank a franchise-best No. 4 in average yards allowed.