Ever since the Dolphins expressed interest in right tackle Eric Winston two weeks ago, the sides appeared to be a perfect fit.
The Dolphins need an offensive tackle after losing Jake Long to St. Louis. And Winston, 29, could provide leadership on the right side of the line.
He also starred at the University of Miami and knows the Dolphins – offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was his coach for his first two NFL seasons in Houston, and Winston’s brother, Matt, is a Dolphins scout.
“Eric would really like to play for the Miami Dolphins,” his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said Sunday on WSVN-Ch. 7. “What a terrific fit.”
Yet Winston remains on the market.
“It’s a fluid situation,” Rosenhaus said. “I can’t really get into a lot of the details as far as the Dolphins. I don’t want to speak for them.”
Winston, Houston’s third-round pick in 2006, is an athletic right tackle who would fit well in the Dolphins’ zone blocking scheme. If Winston signed, second-year tackle Jonathan Martin would move to the left side to take Long’s spot.
The website Pro Football Focus ranked Winston, who played for Kansas City last season, as the ninth-best right tackle in the NFL. He allowed just three sacks.
Winston has started all 96 games in the past six seasons for Houston and Kansas City, although he has been cut at the end of the last two seasons.
The Dolphins might ultimately decide to replace Long with a draft pick, as they don’t have many options left if they want to find a veteran in free agency.
Cincinnati’s Andre Smith is available, but he’s had weight problems throughout his career and isn’t a good fit for the zone blocking scheme. The Dolphins could try to trade for Kansas City’s Branden Albert, but that would cost them a draft pick plus a large contract.
Free agent right tackle Ryan Harris would be a good fit for the blocking scheme but was a backup last year for the Texans and started only two games. There’s also Winston Justice, 28, who has started 43 games over the past four years for Philadelphia and Indianapolis.
Whoever the Dolphins find will certainly come cheaper than Long.
According to a copy of his contract obtained by the Post, the Rams are banking on Long, the Dolphins’ No. 1 overall pick in 2008, to stay healthy and regain his dominant form for the next two to three years.
The total value of Long’s contract is $34 million over four years, but $20 million of that is guaranteed. Only the final year of the contract, in 2016, has no guaranteed money.
The Dolphins showed interest in bringing Long back, but probably didn’t want to pay that much guaranteed money to a player who has suffered injuries to his back, shoulder, biceps, triceps and knees.
The Dolphins still have needs in free agency apart from offensive tackle. They are looking at veteran pass rushers, want to find an upgrade to John Jerry at right guard and are still in the mix for former Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, a source told the Post on Monday.