NFL players want to play for the Seahawks
Cornerback Winfield is latest high-profile free-agent signed by Seattle
And according to Seahawks general manager John Schneider, Winfield wanted to be in Seattle just as much as the Seahawks wanted to add the former Viking, who was released by Minnesota for salary cap-saving reasons earlier in the offseason.
"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 he had heard a lot of good things about the organization," Schneider said.
Winfield, 35, is Seattle's third high-profile free-agent signing along with defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, both of whom ended up in Seattle on deals that were perhaps smaller than what many thought the market would bear. The Seahawks' other big offseason addition, receiver Percy Harvin, said following the trade with Minnesota that he encouraged his agent to facilitate a deal with Seattle.
In other words, Winfield's signing is just the latest indicator that players around the league like what's going on in Seattle, a team that went 11-5 last season and is seen as a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2013.
"This year, we feel blessed," Schneider said. "I think it's a testament to coach Carroll's staff and the way that they treat players as men. I think that's kind of gotten around the league. And the competition thing is real here, and I think players also feel like they're going to be put in a position to accentuate their strengths.
Schneider also acknowledged that the NFL's flat salary cap created a situation where some players have not gotten the deals they were expecting when they hit free agency.
"There are a lot of people who went out in free agency and didn't necessarily get what they were looking for financially," he said. "So on our end, we always take a lot of pride in trying to get in on every deal as much as we can. Then if it doesn't make sense, we're at least at peace walking away from it knowing we gave it a good run, and some of these this year just ended up going our way."
Winfield, 35, is expected to play the role of Seattle's fifth defensive back in nickel packages. That nickel corner role has become increasingly important in the NFL in recent years as the league has become more pass-happy, making Winfield a player Seattle views as a starter even if he isn't on the field every down.
And yes, at 5-foot-9, Winfield hardly fits the mold of Seattle's big starting corners. Richard Sherman is 6-3 and Brandon Browner is 6-4. However, it was Winfield's toughness and football instincts -- which helped him produce 101 tackles, three interceptions and 12 passes defensed last season -- that made up for a lack of height in Schneider's eyes.
"While he doesn't necessarily fit our size requirements for the position, he's always been a player who has compensated for that deficiency with his intensity, his instincts and his tackling skills," Schneider said. "He's always been a phenomenal run support player. He's very instinctive inside, and he had a very nice season. You can see him playing inside against bigger players, like Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson and disrupting them."
As for Seattle's other recent signing, quarterback Brady Quinn, Schneider said that decision involved both Quinn's ability and his work ethic.
"Brady is all football all the time," Schneider said. "He's a junky, he can't get enough, so we thought he'd be a really cool fit with Russell (Wilson). ... And then he threw the ball extremely well and did well in the workout."
Schneider said recently signed defensive lineman Tony McDaniel likely will fill the role played by Alan Branch, a starter the past two seasons. He added the coaching staff is still figuring out how it will rotate all of its new D-line acquisitions. ... Schneider said he hasn't talked to defensive end Chris Clemons recently, but noted trainers said Clemons is recovering well from his offseason knee surgery. Schneider also noted that Clemons is a fast healer, though he added it is too soon to know if Clemons will be ready for the beginning of the season or if he'll start the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list. ... The Seahawks had a 98 percent renewal rate on season tickets as of Wednesday, the highest in franchise history. As a result, the team is not taking any more deposits for 2013 season tickets. Fans wanting to secure a spot in line for future season tickets can join a new membership called Blue Pride, which requires a $100 deposit to join, and will be capped at 12,000 fans. That deposit would eventually apply to season tickets, and Blue Pride membership includes, among other things, a 10 percent discount at the Seahawks Pro Shop and advanced opportunity to buy single game tickets.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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