Posted: 9:09 am Monday, March 25th, 2013
By Post Staff
On the surface, Eric Winston seems like a perfect fit for the Dolphins.
* He’s an athletic right tackle that fits well in a zone blocking scheme, which is exactly what the Dolphins need now after losing Jake Long to the Rams (Jonathan Martin would move to the left side).
* He’s 29, has started in 96 straight games and can fill the leadership void created by Long’s departure.
* He likes the area, having starred at the University of Miami in college.
* He knows the team well – offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was his OC for his first two NFL seasons in Houston, and his brother, Matt, is a Dolphins scout.
* He still seems to have something left in the tank – Pro Football Focus ranked him as the ninth-best right tackle in the NFL last season with the Chiefs after allowing just three sacks.
* He won’t be expensive. The Dolphins had put some money aside for Long, and can now use some of that – not even all of it – on Winston.
And to take it a step further, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said on WSVN Channel 7 last night that Winston wants to be here.
“Eric would really like to play for the Miami Dolphins,” Rosenhaus said. “What a terrific fit.”
And yet here we are, two weeks into free agency, and Winston is still available, and the Dolphins still don’t have a right tackle.
“It’s a fluid situation,” Rosenhaus said. “I can’t really get into a lot of the details as far as the Dolphins. I don’t want to speak for them.”
Without knowing exactly what’s going in the discussions between Winston and the Dolphins, when an agent publicly says that a player is interested in playing for a team, it usually means that the team’s interest level isn’t too high.
Winston will be 30 in November, after all, and has been cut after the last two seasons (by Houston after 2011, by Kansas City after 2012). And based on Rosenhaus’ comments, it doesn’t appear that money is the issue.
A deal definitely can still be consummated by the two sides, but if the Dolphins REALLY wanted Winston, they probably would’ve made it happen by now.
But the Dolphins don’t have many options left if they want to find a veteran tackle in free agency.
There’s Cincinnati’s Andre Smith, but he’s had weight problems his entire career and isn’t a good fit for the zone blocking scheme. They can trade for Kansas City’s Branden Albert, but that will cost them a draft pick plus a large contract. There’s free agent right tackle Ryan Harris, 28, who previously played for Denver is a good fit for the zone blocking scheme, but he was a backup last year for the Texans and only started two games. There’s also Winston Justice, 28, who also allowed just three sacks last year for the Colts and has started 43 games over the past four years for the Eagles and Colts.
If the Dolphins decide that none of them is the answer, then the right tackle (or left tackle) will probably have to come in the draft. The only other options are veterans on the downside of their career – Bryant McKinnie, Chad Clifton, Max Starks and Sean Locklear.
And John Jerry, who previously has played tackle for the Dolphins, likely isn’t the answer, either. After all, the Dolphins are trying to find an upgrade to him at right guard, with Lance Louis and Brandon Moore visiting in recent weeks.
Even if the Dolphins do sign one of the veterans to play right tackle, it likely will only be for a season. Expect them to draft another tackle with one of their five picks in the first three rounds of this April’s draft.
Letting Long leave for St. Louis may have been the right move — his level of play and injury history didn’t match his contract demands — but the Dolphins’ options for replacing him are dwindling.