Antoine Winfield brings a lofty and well-earned pedigree to Seattle: One of the NFL’s best tackling cornerbacks. A 15-year pro. A guy off a season in which he posted 101 tackles — a 101! — from his cornerback position. Pro Bowler.
There were offseason moves that commanded more splash — Percy Harvin, for example — but none might be as influential as the signing of Winfield. And for this reason: There’s a chance he might change the way the Seahawks play this season, in that they may rely more and more on the nickle package.
Seattle returns to proven linebackers in K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner, but the Seahawks still have question marks at the other spot. Malcolm Smith, entering his third year, appears the front runner right now, but there’s also a scenario in which the Seahawks could elect to go smaller and turn to Winfield instead of playing the more traditional three linebackers.
General manager John Schneider said in April that Winfield, who is 36 heading into his 16th season, will play between 50 and 70 percent of the time. Depending on match ups week to week and how Smith and the other linebackers develop during camp this summer, it will be interesting to track how much Seattle leans on the savvy and steady tackling of Winfield this season. The NFL is continuing to evolve into a league dominated by passing, and playing a fifth defensive back extensively could make a lot of sense.
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