In the shadow of a nasty defense and the brilliance of Arian Foster, the offensive line of the Houston Texans may have been overlooked last season. It was one of the league's best units, especially in the running game, and Monday, the Texans said goodbye to one of the line's anchors. Eric Winston was released.
It came as a surprise to everyone, including Winston. The guy had started 87 straight games at tackle for the Texans, and was one of the reasons that Houston ‒ when Matt Schaub missed games, when Andre Johnson missed games, and when Arian Foster missed games ‒ could stay competitive offensively. They could still block.
It's a salary cap move, of course, and the Texans need to create a little wiggle room under the cap if they want to keep Mario Williams or some of their other free agents. Here's Winston, via John McClain at chron.com:
"Basically, they told me they were up against it (the salary cap) and didn't want to insult me by asking me to take a pay cut," he said. "They said they hated to do it and maybe we could work something out down the road, but, well, I'm just stunned. I didn't want to leave. This just sucks." [...]
"I still think the Texans are going to be great. They don't need me to be great. I think they're going to have a big-time team next season, and I'm sorry I'm not going to be part of it."
Sounds like a sweet guy.
I just wonder if the Texans, with Mario Williams about to get a fruit basket from every GM in the league, wouldn't have been better off hanging on to Winston. Someone's going to make Williams a massive offer ‒ something that, if the Texans could afford, they'd have paid by now.
Yes, they were up against the cap, but they weren't over it. They're probably going to lose Williams no matter what, and after that, I don't know what free agent they have that's more worth keeping than Eric Winston. Having a cohesive, reliable offensive line was so important to the Texans' success last year. I don't know why they'd want to mess with that.
Winston won't be hurting for offers when free agency kicks off at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.