If they are smart, the Washington Redskins will move quickly to sign right tackle Eric Winston in free agency. Winston has been released by the Kansas City Chiefs after only one season in the AFC West, according to Dan Hanzus of NFL.com.
He may have flopped with 2012's worst team, but Winston would be an ideal acquisition for the Redskins. Fixing the offensive line remains a priority for head coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen.
However, in no position is that need greater than at right tackle. Jammal Brown has been a disaster since Shanahan traded for him prior to the 2010 season.
The former New Orleans Saints starter has barely stayed healthy. Since arriving in Washington, Brown has missed 21 games, including all 16 last season.
When he has been on the field, Brown has been a major liability, particularly in pass protection. His struggles have often sent the Redskins scrambling for alternatives.
In 2012, it was plug-and-play stopgap Tyler Polumbus. While he toiled hard and was a decent fit in Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme, Polumbus is not a skilled starter.
Winston is certainly a more proficient option. He has superior zone-scheme expertise, having been a six-year starter for the Houston Texans prior to signing with the Chiefs.
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, a Shanahan disciple, runs the same zone-blocking scheme as his mentor. It helped Winston excel. At 6'7" and 302 pounds, Winston certainly boasts the right physical attributes for the system.
He is quick out of his stance and agile enough to be effective on the move and in space. Having Winston locking down the right would allow the Redskins to run Alfred Morris on more stretch plays to that side.
Most of the Redskins runs tend to go to the left, and more variety is needed. Morris will surely be a target for every defense in 2013 after his superb rookie season. Winston can play a key role in expanding the ground game despite a mediocre 2012 campaign.
In fairness, the natural zone-blocker was operating in an unfamiliar system. The Chiefs ran a power-based blocking scheme, characteristic of the Perkins-Erhardt style of offense favoured by ex-head coach Romeo Crennel.
A return to the familiar confines of a zone system would soon get Winston back to his best. The Redskins should also be encouraged by his record of durability.
Winston has started every game since the beginning of the 2007 season. That consistency would be a major boost for a line often blighted by injuries, particularly on the right side. The only issue might be finding the room to make a deal.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com reported Winston would have made $4.9 million with the Chiefs in 2013. That kind of figure would be scary to the Redskins front office, given the salary cap penalty still crippling the team's plans.
Going by current projections for this year, Spotrac.com lists them as being more than $4 million over the cap. However, they ought to be able to make room for a restructured deal for Winston. It's an effort Shanahan and Allen should make.
Winston is likely to be tempted by a return to a system that suits him best and joining a playoff team. The Redskins are unlikely to find many better scheme-suitable solutions to their problem right tackle position anywhere else.
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