A Gaping Void - Part 1: Eric Winston

Eric Winston (Getty Images)

This is the first of two articles depicting what the Texans can expect in order to keep some key pieces of their offensive line, Eric Winston and Owen Daniels. We'll first look at what to expect for Winston.

Eric Winston and Owen Daniels represent a gaping void on the strong side of the Texans line. By that, I mean that they have both excelled on the field and achieved enough playing time to void the final year of their contracts, which now puts them in the final years of their deals. If the Texans stand pat and let these contributors play out their contracts, there could be a gaping void in the Texans line.

Houston recently extended general manager Rick Smith, who has a track record of making shrewd moves, and these upcoming moves regarding both Winston and Daniels are going to be some of the most intriguing the Texans will make.

Even though Winston and Daniels are in their contract years, they will not be free agents after the season. When the owners opted out of the current CBA, rules for free agency changed. It now requires six years of experience to reach free agency, so Daniels and Winston would be restricted free agents for another 2 years.

So what kind of deals will keep two young building blocks of a rising Texans team in place for the next few years? Let's look around the league and see what kind of deals are out there.

Tackle Salaries

Ryan Diem
2/21/2005: Signed a seven-year, $36 million contract. 2008: $3.5 million, 2009: $3.75 million, 2010: $3.85 million, 2011: $5.4 million, 2012: Free Agent.

Kevin Shaffer
3/11/2006: Signed a seven-year, $36 million contract. The deal includes $12.5 in guarantees. 2008: $2.9 million, 2009: $2.65 million, 2010: $2.9 million, 2011-2012: $3.4 million, 2013: Free Agent.

Eric Winston is probably as solid as any right tackle mentioned above, and he's only 24 years of age, so he has some leverage. He'll also be looking for the big payday he missed in the 2006 draft.

The Texans should be able to hold onto Winston as a restricted free agent, with the current numbers being $1.47 million if he's placed with a second-round tender (which will require teams to give up a second-round pick as compensation to sign him). This should work for at least one year, possibly two, which should be enough time for both sides to get together to strike a deal. The sooner, the better. Contract disputes make for nasty blood.

Numbers that one would expect for Winston's services should be in the neighborhood of four years and $35 million, with $15 million in guarantees. His cap numbers under that type of deal could be something close to this: 2009--$6.5 mil; 2010--$8 mil; 2011--$9.75 mil; 2012--$10.75 mil.

This deal leaves him as a free agent (Pro Bowler?) at 29, which would be a great age for another big payday.

Go to Part 2 - Owen Daniels

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