UPDATE: Insider info from Minnesota (scoll down)
Update 6/16 10:00 PM: The AP reported that Winfield and the team have come to an understanding and that things are better. While it doesn't kill the rumor completely (he could be traded), it certainly douses it significantly. Be sure to check the rumor mill archives for updates to this and other rumors.
Rumor: The Pats may trade Asante Samuel for Antoine Winfield
Status: unconfirmed speculation. (Updated 6/17 to COLD)
Buzz: The early indication is that Asante Samuel is so displeased with his contract situation he has demanded a new deal or he will hold out until week 10 of the regular season. Samuel's contract demands -- reportedly near the 8-year $80 million deal Nate Clements received -- are well out of the range of any offer the Patriots may make to the fifth-year pro.
One possible solution, which has made the rumor mill, is a trade for Antoine Winfield, the Minnesota Vikings defender who is sick of losing. The Minnesota media have speculated that the Patriots may be interested in trading for Winfield. While Winfield turns 30 this month, Samuel is only 26. With two first-round draft picks in 2008, the threory goes that the Pats will use one of those to acquire Winfield. Others have speculated that the Pats will make some arrangement to ship Samuel to the Vikings as part of a deal.
|Minnesota Vikings corner back Antoine Winfield, right, attempts to push the ball out of the grasp of Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald (11) after Fitzgerald make the catch during the second quarter in a NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2006 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)|
Reality: Speculation is one thing, basing it on real, reported information is another. Samuel is a young corner who is well versed in the Patriots' scheme. He had one outstanding season in his brief career - a ten interception outing with a pair of postseason interceptions for touchdowns. Winfield has had no such seasons in his career, but he brings something Samuel isn't noted for - a ton of tackles. Winfield has averaged 80 or more tackles 5 of the last 6 seasons. By comparison Samuel's best season was last year (a contract year) in which he netted 64 tackles.
Comparing the two corners: Both are about 5-foot-9, 180-pounds. Both have played in the AFC East and are familiar with the Patriots division rivals. Both have been productive starting cornerbacks in the NFL. Both are adequate (or better) in run support, and the same in pass coverage.
It's unlikely the Patriots would be interested in acquiring an older, tackle-oriented cornerback to replace Samuel who is known for being more of a pass defender and is four years younger. They do have the purchasing power required to pursue Winfield, but would the Vikings be willing to part with their starting corner? A trade one-for-one would be to Minnesota's favor. Full of cap space, the Vikings could easily offer Samuel the type of contract he so desires. But for the Patriots, although Winfield is a solid run-stuffer, it would be a downgrade for a team looking to make a Super Bowl run.
Could the Patriots just trade for Winfield and keep Samuel? That's the interesting part of the rumor. It's possible. Don't expect the Vikings to let Winfield go without a plan to replace him.
Patriots Insider was told (by a league source) that the Patriots want to resolve the contract issue with the Samuel and get him back in camp. Samuel initially said he wanted to return to the Patriots and that he would let his agent and the team work things out. Now the tune has changed. Much of that can be attributed to Deion Branch and Adam Vinatieri's departures last year. Both players wanted to return, but were not given fair offers - according to them. In Branch's case it turned ugly. The Patriots are hoping that in Samuel's case it does not.