- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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After keeping four key players in the past two days, the new regime in Kansas City shed a big name in a move that could have an effect on the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft.
The Chiefs cut right tackle Eric Winston on Wednesday night. His signing last year by the previous regime was considered a coup. He was particularly good in run blocking last season, but struggled some in the pass offense. His release saves a reported $3.5 million as the Chiefs march toward free agency.
Monday, the Chiefs signed two impending free agents, receiver Dwayne Bowe and punter Dustin Colquitt, and gave left tackle Branden Albert the franchise tag. Defensive end Tyson Jackson redid his deal Tuesday to stick with the team.
By jettisoning Winston, the Chiefs have a hole at right tackle. They have options, though. They could use 2012 third-round pick Donald Stephenson there. They could sign a veteran, or use the top overall draft pick on Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher.
Those two are considered left-tackle prospects; their chances of going to Kansas City decreased when Albert was given the franchise tag. But with an opening now on the right side, one of the two (Joeckel is the bigger possibility) could be moved to the right side, then to left tackle if Albert doesn’t sign a long-term deal. Albert has no intentions of playing on the right side.
I’m not totally sold on the idea of taking a player at No. 1 and moving him to right tackle. But I think the Chiefs are totally open-minded about the pick, and this is one option. I think they want to trade the pick, but if they keep it, they will take the best player. If that means moving Joeckel or Fisher to the right side, that will be the case.
This move clearly caught Winston by surprise. He recently expressed excitement about the opportunity of blocking for new Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith. In the end, Winston will be remembered for a verbal outburst. Winston ripped some Kansas City fans for booing quarterback Matt Cassel when he was injured in a game; his comments made national news.
I think Winston, 29, will get some opportunities. He could be a nice fit in San Diego if the Chargers want to replace Jeromey Clary. The Chargers are expected to make major changes on the offensive line. I could even see Winston being a fit in Oakland and Denver in the right circumstances, but if he stays in the AFC West, I’d say San Diego makes the most sense.