Eric Winston was one of the top right tackles available on the market this offseason. However, a month into free agency, Winston still remains unsigned despite interest from multiple NFL teams.
One of the teams interested is the San Diego Chargers, who desperately need to upgrade their offensive line. Three starters from last year’s line are gone, while an upgrade over right tackle Jeromey Clary has been needed for some time. Bringing in Winston would likely mark the end of Clary’s mediocre tenure with the team. The Chargers could save $2.3 million in cap space by releasing Clary.
Winston, who was set to make $4.9 million with the Kansas City Chiefs before they released him, is reportedly looking for about $3 million to $4 million this year and isn’t even insisting on a long-term deal. In comparison, Clary is set to make $4 million in 2013. The Chargers and Winston were in negotiations “but things kind of fell through,” Winston said on SiriusXMSports.
It’s strange to think San Diego wouldn’t give Winston a $3 million contract to be a stopgap for a year and help stabilize their line. Winston might not be a huge improvement over Clary in pass protection, but he’d be a huge upgrade in run blocking. His experience and knowledge of the zone-blocking scheme would be a help to all of the Chargers’ linemen, who will need a leader to help make the transition. He’d also be a huge help to Ryan Mathews, who is in a make-or-break year.
It appears as if General Manager Tom Telesco knows his budget and isn’t willing to alter it for any player. The Chargers have just about $6 million in cap space left and still need to sign their draft class, which leaves them little wiggle room to work with.
As of now, it seems unlikely that talks will pick up between Winston and San Diego. He has also drawn interest from the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys. The Dolphins have thrown money at everyone this offseason, while Jerry Jones is never afraid to open the checkbook. Odds are, either one of these teams will offer Winston a better deal than the Chargers.