The Houston Texans on Monday morning became only the second team in the league to secure contract agreements with all their draft choices, signing third-round pick Eric Winston, the standout offensive tackle from the University of Miami.
As of Monday morning, the only other franchise with all its draft picks under contract was Chicago, and the Bears enjoyed the advantage of not having to deal with a first-round selection.
Houston signed top overall selection Mario Williams before the draft even began and vice president of football operations Dan Ferens, who handles contract negotiations, systematically worked his way through the remaining six choices. Houston rookies have reported to work but practices do not begin under first-year coach Gary Kubiak until Friday.
The 66th overall prospect selected, Winston signed a four-year, $2.218 million contract which includes a $608,000 signing bonus and minimum salaries for the four seasons. The final year of the contract can be voided, however, if Winston simply reaches minimum playing time levels, making it a three-year deal.
Winston is one of two highly-regarded offensive line prospects selected by the Texans, who are attempting to rebuild their porous blocking unit. Former University of Pittsburgh lineman Charles Spencer, who could challenge for the starting job at left tackle as a rookie, was chosen one slot ahead of Winston in the third round and signed a similar contract, with $610,000 in upfront money.
Regarded as a strong technical blocker, and blessed with very quick feet, Winston probably will back up projected starting right tackle Zach Wiegert this season, but could battle for playing time. There is a remote chance he could get into the mix at left tackle if neither Spencer nor veteran Seth Wand performs well at the position early in camp.
The former Hurricanes star had a terrific season in 2005, coming back from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament that limited him to four games the previous year, and started all 12 contests at left tackle. For his career, Winston appeared in 42 games and logged 29 starts.
Winston has a long frame (6-feet-6½, 310 pounds) and might actually be able to carry another 10-15 pounds, especially if he is going to remain at right tackle. He possesses excellent body control and is a very polished pass protector, but might need to improve his run-blocking.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.