In a surprising development on Wednesday, Eric Winston was released by the Kansas City Chiefs after only one season with the team. It's surprising because Winston actually had a relatively good season in Kansas. Moreover, it seems strange the team would tag Branden Albert, and then release Winston. Do they plan on using, say, Eric Fisher or Luke Joeckel as a right tackle? Or will they move Albert to right tackle? Either way, the move was slightly unexpected. Having said that, could Winston end up falling into Jeff Ireland's hands?
The good news is that Eric Winston should come relatively cheap. With Kansas City, he was averaging somewhere in the region of $5 million a year. This year, he may not reach that. The draft is rich with offensive tackles, and the free agency market is pretty deep too. In short, Winston won't likely break the bank. That's good news if Ireland wants to sign an expensive free agent wide receiver.
In terms of play on the field, the 29 year old also had a decent year. He yielded only three sacks the entire season and was rated as the 9th best right tackle in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
From a scheme standpoint, Winston makes good sense for the Dolphins. He's pretty athletic for a right tackle, and has experience playing in the zone blocking system during his time with the Houston Texans. If I were asked to name three words that would explain Eric Winston, it would be experience, durability and reliability. He's played in all sixteen regular season games for the past six seasons.
I've found it difficult to find a weakness to Eric Winston's game. The only one I can think of is the fact that this is the second time he's been cut by a team in the space of a year (the first being with the Houston Texans at the end of last season). Coincidence?
What he says
"Just wanted to confirm that I have been released. Even though it was an incredibly tough year on and off the field last year, I wouldn't trade the relationships I made in KC and the overall experience I had for anything. It was an honor to be a Chief ..."
What they say
And Winston, a former University of Miami star who was drafted by Houston in the third round I 2006, could make a lot of sense for the Dolphins if they choose to move on from Long.
The Dolphins could slide rookie Jonathan Martin to left tackle, where he played the last four games of the 2012 season, and insert Winston on the right side. Winston would fill the leadership void created by Long's departure and could help mentor Martin and young tackle Will Yeatman.
Winston also began his NFL career with Mike Sherman, playing for him in 2006-07 when Sherman was the Texans' offensive coordinator and assistant head coach. And Winston's younger brother, Matt Winston, is a college scout for the Dolphins.
Overall, Eric Winston would be a relatively cheap and reliable option at right tackle. Signing him would shore up the offensive line; the team can plug him into the team straight away. What's more, we also know that Jeff Ireland was interested in Winston last year. In the end, limited cap space meant the Dolphins lost out. But now, with the cap space Miami has, could Winston be in a Dolphins uniform in 2013?