The Cincinnati Bengals are bringing back veteran tackle Eric Winston. The 33-year-old signed a one-year deal, worth the veteran minimum (about $1 million).
Winston’s return was a must for the Bengals. Thursday came and went, as did the team’s two best offensive linemen from 2016. Andrew Whitworth said adios to Cincinnati, signing for three years with the Rams. Kevin Zeitler was ushered north to old coordinator Hue Jackson to the tune of $60 million over five years.
Whitworth’s departure left the Bengals with just two tackles on the roster. Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, the team’s first two picks in 2015, were supposed to be the starters of the future, but have been underwhelming in their limited playing time.
Ogubuehi started the majority of 2016 at right tackle but was benched after 11 games. He went to the right side after Andre Smith‘s departure in free agency in March 2016. Now, he will look to replace Whitworth protecting Andy Dalton‘s blindside, a position he played at Texas A&M that made him a first-round draft pick.
Winston will definitely have a chance to crack the opening-day lineup. The last time he did that was in 2013 with the Cardinals, starting all 16 games at right tackle protecting ex-Bengal signal-caller Carson Palmer.
Prior to landing in Cincinnati back in 2014, Winston spent six seasons at right tackle for the Texans. In his final year in Houston back in 2011, he blocked for T.J. Yates when the Texans dominated the Bengals for their first playoff win in franchise history.
One-year stints followed in 2012 and 2013 with Kansas City and Arizona, respectively. Cincinnati has offered the NFLPA president another degree of stability.
With 11 picks in next month’s draft, expect the Bengals to draft at least one more tackle. They could also target another veteran free-agent tackle post-draft.