It seems too great of an opportunity to pass up for the Miami Dolphins. As it currently stands, free agent right tackle Eric Winston is up for grabs. Think of Winston as your prototypical job hop of a free agent in the NFL. With stints in Houston, Kansas City, and last season in Arizona, Winston has been a steady, durable right tackle in the NFL.
First, statistically speaking Winston had a down year per Pro Football Focus. He earned an efficiency rating that was less than stellar of -16.3, lower than often-criticized Tyson Clabo of Miami. Winston earned -7.8 (pass block) and -8.4 (run block) ratings in 2013 with the Arizona Cardinals. While not sensational, his improvement in the last two games of the season, showed over all at 2.8 and 3.6 facing the Seahawks and 49ers respectively.
Next, Winston, we’ve all heard, has Miami ties and is represented by super agent Drew Rosenhaus. In fact, not only does Winston have Miami ties with his college career at the U (Miami), he has Kansas City ties playing on the same line as newly minted Dolphin Branden Albert. Winston could make an excellent addition to the right side of the Dolphins line since the departure of both Jonathan Martin and Tyson Clabo.
One can look at this argument in several ways. First, the Dolphins have attempted to build through the draft with offensive line talent. They’ve acquired more of a mixed bag with the additions of Dallas Thomas last season and Mike Pouncey in past seasons. Consequently, they have struck out with the longevity and durability of Jake Long and the mental toughness of Martin. What’s difficult to tell is whether the Dolphins are set on heading into the draft and getting a player such as Zach Martin who projects to be a starter right away in the NFL or grabbing a guy off the wire who for all intensive purposes can still play in the NFL at 32.
In addition, the Dolphins might be better off meeting Eric Winston’s demands, because we know they are high, and load up on the offensive line. Surely, they can pencil in Nate Garner at the position, but he might be needed at center to fill in for Mike Pouncey, should he get suspended by the NFL for his role in the teasing/bullying of Jonathan Martin.
Needless to say, the signing of Winston would come to fruition if the Dolphins a) trust in his ability enough to take the risk and b) feel that he fits the culture and attitude of the Dolphins organization. Here’s this for a thought: Winston has spent time in a zone-blocking scheme in at least two of his organizational stops in Houston and in Kansas City.
While it’s true the Dolphins should logically load up on offensive line talent in order to allow the coaching staff to mix and match based on the players strengths and abilities, giving offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and offensive line coach John Benton more players to fit their scheme, the Dolphins will be better off from a competition standpoint.
However, if the Dolphins don’t sign another veteran tackle now, they could do the smart thing and wait for Winston, until after the draft, when his demands have dropped and he is more willing to get a deal done for less. The risk is other teams could jump at Winston out of desperation leaving the Dolphins with nothing.
The Dolphins are in a prime position to use up some of their 16 million in cap space, but the question is: Do they have the stomach for signing the veteran Winston who comes with some risks?
I’d say signing Winston now would be one of the smartest moves this offseason from a leadership and scheme standpoint.
If the Dolphins desire to protect their quarterback Ryan Tannehill, looking for versatile talented players might be the ticket that gets punched for the playoffs in 2015.