The Bengals signed not one, but two veteran linemen this week.
In addition to getting Andre Smith re-signed after one year away, Cincinnati also struck a deal with Eric Winston. Neither move is viewed as a sexy signing, but both players have shown they can be great assets along the offensive line.
In Winston’s case, he’s expected to compete for the right tackle spot in addition to being a backup right guard, where Smith is expected to start. However, with Smith having never played the position before, it’s not out of the question that Winston starts at guard at some point this coming season.
After all, Winston has spent time at that spot since coming to Cincinnati in 2014. It’s possible he’s actually the better option there, which is why getting Winston re-signed was quietly a good move by the Bengals.
Here is a look at Winston’s contract, courtesy of Over The Cap:
Base Salary: $1,000,000
Cap Number: $695,000
Dead Money if Cut (at any time): $80,000
Cap Savings if Cut (at any time): $615,000
Winston’s one-year deal is worth $1,080,000, including a $80,000 signing bonus, which is also his dead cap number if cut this year. He’s very likely to make the opening 53-man roster, especially since Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth departed this offseason. Winston is one of the few players on the roster who can give Cincinnati depth at both tackle spots, as well as offensive guard.
That’s why getting Winston re-signed was a needed move for this team, which is lacking offensive line depth heading into next season. Winston may not be getting paid much, but he could end up having an integral role with the team in 2017.
If nothing else, Winston’s veteran leadership and experience will help aid in the development of Jake Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi and any other linemen the Bengals may acquire in the draft or as priority free agents.
Winston’s contract very minimally impacts the Bengals’ salary cap, because of something in the Collective Bargaining Agreement called the Minimum Salary Benefit. The Bengals don’t need to count Winston’s whole deal toward the cap, which you can read more about here.