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With Oher Gone, Would Winston Be an Upgrade?

Street Talk With Oher Gone, Would Winston Be an Upgrade?

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13+ Comments TRUTH says Cyrus Kouandjiio in round 2 at #48. Day one starter at RT.
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One week into free agency, the Baltimore Ravens have already addressed several of the most glaring needs on the roster.

Through in-house signings, the team has narrowed down its priority list to just a few positions, including center, free safety and right tackle, among others. Guard could also be a need, but since Kelechi Osemele played the 2012 playoffs and 2013 regular season at left guard (when healthy), it should be assumed (for now) that he’ll be back at guard again in 2014.

After Michael Oher’s departure to Nashville and with no inherent replacement on the roster, right tackle has become a priority. The free agent tackle market has dwindled after a flurry of signings in the first few days of free agency.

Right now, Baltimore’s best options at the position may come during May’s NFL draft. The tackle class isn’t deep per se, but starting-caliber right tackles can be found after the first round.

Some potential Ravens candidates to keep an eye on to fill the void at the position include JaWuan James, Billy Turner and Morgan Moses.

But for today, we’ll take a look at the free agent right tackle market, which could still be a viable option for Baltimore if the team is in need of a cheap veteran option.

The most common name suggested?

Eric Winston.

The 30-year-old veteran is an obvious potential choice for Baltimore because of the easiest connection to make, which is Gary Kubiak. Prior to playing for the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals in 2012 and 2013, respectively, Winston spent the first six seasons of his NFL career playing under Kubiak with the Houston Texans.

Could the two reunite in Baltimore?

Having Kubiak as well as former Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison in Baltimore seems to make the connection ideal. This is working under the assumption that Kubiak would event want Winston playing for his offense again, however, which no one but Kubiak knows.

Outside of the Kubiak connection, Winston is enticing for another reason: value.

Last season, after being released by the Chiefs, Winston signed a one-year deal worth a measly $1.25 million. The deal included just $160,000 in guaranteed money.

After a year in Arizona, Winston is a free agent again, and as a tackle that turns 31 during the 2014 NFL season, his value hasn’t increased at all. If anything, it declined after an average year in the dark abyss that is Arizona’s offensive line.

Let’s take a look at Winston’s 2013 season – where he won, where he struggled – and see if he’d be a fit in Baltimore.

The first question that should be posed regarding Winston is whether or not he can play in Baltimore’s zone-blocking scheme. Having a background in Kubiak’s run scheme helps, and it would make the transition easier. However, Winston’s run blocking when he had to move upfield was anything but easy.

As a tackle in a zone scheme, Winston will have to be able to seal off blocks at the second level and move laterally. He isn’t a very athletic tackle, and is often a slow mover. When asked to move up and seal off a defender at the second level for the Cardinals, he often struggled.

Winston didn’t have many problems finding linebackers at the next level to block.

It was blocking said linebackers that was a consistent problem.

Whether it was approaching a linebacker straight on or at an angle, Winston simply wasn’t either quick enough or didn’t approach with good enough form to seal off his man.

Winston was often a liability last season in this aspect.

Arizona’s offense didn’t provide Winston with opportunities to display how he moved laterally often, so his ability to provide value on outside zone plays at this point in his career remains to be seen.

Winston had more success in pass protection for the Cardinals last season, where he wasn’t a liability necessarily, but also wasn’t a sure thing on the right side.

Where Winston’s value was displayed most was in his ability to quickly dissect pass rushes, particularly stunts run by 4-3 defenses.

Here, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive linemen run a stunt, where Winston has to quickly switch to the defense tackle (#93 Gerald McCoy) that will be coming around the outside.

Winston reacts in more than enough time, positioning himself before McCoy even approaches the tackle.

Winston’s form in pass protection often wasn’t exceptional, but he absorbed contact well, so when pass rushers came at Winston straight on, he was reliable.

Where Winston wasn’t as reliable was when pass rushers tried to beat him around the outside, something that wasn’t too difficult last season.

Defenders almost exclusively used a speed outside move on Winston, as he is a fairly slow-footed lineman who was caught lunging on several occasions, making it easy to attack the outside.

By lunging, Winston puts himself in bad position, as he attempts to regain his balance while the pass rusher has already successfully beat the tackle on the outside.

This removes any chance of Winston recovering in enough time to seal off the defender before the quarterback gets the throw off, with this being the end result:

Essentially, Winston played exactly how a 30 year old on a minimal deal would be expected to play.

He often looked lackadaisical in run blocking, and in pass protection, he was good enough to get by, but when pass rushers knew what it took to beat Winston, it wasn’t too hard to get around him.

Winston’s knowledge of pass rushers aided him mightily, and that helped compensate for physical and technical deficiencies.

Since he could be a prospective Oher replacement, why not bring the penalty aspect into discussion? Oher’s penalties were just as frustrating as his poor play, and his unnecessary false starts often stalled drives.

You’d think anyone would be an upgrade over Oher in that aspect, right?

Well, maybe most, but not Winston.

Here’s a look at the number of penalties called on each tackle over the last three seasons:

That’s a total of 27 for Winston to Oher’s 26.

Winston is by no means be a signing the Ravens should make if they’re looking for an automatic upgrade at the right tackle position without having to worry for the rest of the season.

Given how Winston played in 2013, he’d provide about the same value as Oher, which isn’t necessarily a desirable change.

The benefit to possibly adding Winston, however, is that he figures to come at a bargain. Since the Cardinals managed to get him on a nearly non-guaranteed contract, whichever team signs him this year should be able to do the same.

Winston also hasn’t missed a start since 2007, so it would be a near given that he would be able to play all 16 games next season.

If signed for less total money than the $1.25 million Arizona handed him last offseason, Winston could be worth a shot at right tackle, but only if there are other legitimate contenders for the starting job. With little guaranteed money, there wouldn’t be any urgency to hand Winston the job or even keep him on the roster.

But to think Winston is an easy solution at right tackle is erroneous, and he’d only provide value as a cheap, easy-to-part-with option at the position.

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Kyle Casey

About Kyle Casey

Kyle's love of pro and college football stems from his passion for the Baltimore Ravens. He has held season ticket in section 542 of M&T Bank Stadium since 2004. He is a senior Mass Communications student at Towson University. More from Kyle Casey
Ed in ON
Ed in ON

A better option than Winston may be the guy who took his job in Houston, Ryan Harris!


I don't mind bringing Winston in on a very cheap one year deal. However I think we should look to in house talent (Wagner) or the draft to pick up a right tackle. I think we should look at bringing in Will Montgomery (Redskins) instead as he was cut and wouldn't impact our compensatory picks. He's also familiar with Shanahans ZBS which is vcery similar to Kubiaks. It was only 2 seasons ago when he was a top 10 Center per PFF.


The problem in the draft is FS. If you take Dix or Pryor in the 1st. Then you have to hope there is a C and RT that can start right away, in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. You can find good O-linemen in later rounds, but it gets harder as picks come off the board. Personally, I like Wagner. When he came in last year, mostly on jumbo packages, he graded our positive. And that's in an obvious rushing situation. What was our biggest problem last year. Can he do it consistently over 16 games, and can be pass protect. Those are the questions that Ozzie has to ask.

Ravens Timp
Ravens Timp

The Ravens just need two decent offensive lineman from the draft or free agency. They are still really talented. They just sucked last year because everyone guns for the champs. You get 16 "A" games. Next year the Ravens are back to underdog status, which is where they have always been their best. The roster is at least 9-10 wins now. They need to add a few pieces to get back to division champs. Pitt is old and has sucked for 3 years now. Cincy is crumbling again and lost tons of players. Dalton sucks. The Browns are a joke.

Fl Raven
Fl Raven

Great article Kyle. You sure convinced me. There will be other veterans cut after the draft when Ozzie usually picks up good value. It makes no sense to just sign someone to just sign someone unless we think the player will be of value. What does concern me is everyone thinking Oz did such a great job this off season. Singing our own players with only Steve Smith as an addition provides no upgrade to out putrid run game of last year. Having Pitta back and Steve Smith definitely gives Flac the tools but he needs pass protection. We have done nothing to upgrade our running game on the line or in the backfield and games are won and lost in the pit. Right now we have a good, young left tackle. Two guards coming off injuries, one coming off major year ending surgery. A struggling, undersized center and no right tackle. We also have a backup lineman and our starting tailback in legal trouble with very little depth in either area and while we have some cap room, probably not enough to go after anyone major, not that there's anyone major left out there at this point anyway. No running game means defenses can tee of on Joe again and double cover our receivers. I don't see a lot to be happy about now but there's a long way to go until the season starts.

D Rock
D Rock

I dont think we sign Winston or any Tackles that have not been cut. Ozzie really values those comp picks. I think he will bank on Wagner and a guy in the draft to compete. If anything in FA I think we look to sign a FS.


I think Kyle is right, if the Ravens can nab him close to vet min with little or no guaranteed, it would be an ok insurance policy. I would say that Oher is better than Winston however Oher just got a $20M contract... The value is there but no need to rush into it, he might still be around even after the draft.

Jon Fazzone
Jon Fazzone

At that price i would sign him...We will get another OT in the Draft so as a 1 year stop gap or as a Veteran Backup he is a Bargain...I would say yes , as Ozzie Continues to have an Excellent Off Season...Oz doing a Great Job trying to make Last Years Awful Off Season a Distant Memory ...Now on to the Draft !!!

Mike Z
Mike Z

I like Morgan Moses, but not in the first round at 17. Either trade down in the first, of up in the 2nd if there is a shot.


With all due respect Kyle, you might want to watch Wagner play (at RT) before you throw him under the bus . . .


I agree that Pittsburgh is old and has lost some guys. But they are still dangerous. The Bengals have lost some good players. They also had a ton of money to spend in FA, but chose not to. And I also think Dalton is overrated. The Browns however, are creeping on a come up. Granted, they still have a ways to go, but you can't expect to walk all over them anymore. They have a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball. All they need is a good QB. So, just beware.


Wagner would fall under the competition category against Winston or whichever tackles are added. Can't go into training camp assuming Wagner can start.


Cyrus Kouandjiio in round 2 at #48. Day one starter at RT.


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