On Wednesday, Eric Winston was released by the Kansas City Chiefs. Winston, the starting RT for the Chiefs, was due a substantial salary for the coming year, which made his release a possibility despite his above-average play. Of course, the Chiefs have the flexibility to make this move because they hold the number one overall pick, and former Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel is one of the few (and perhaps only) prospects that draft pundits (and perhaps GMs) think is worth that pick.
While many thought that Kansas City had moved in another direction when they chose to use the franchise tag on left tackle Branden Albert, perhaps a better view of that decision is seeing Albert’s contract for what it’s worth – a one year deal. For Kansas City, it makes complete sense for them to maximize their salary cap, by signing a cheap replacement for Winston as well as maximizing the value of their draft pick by taking arguably the best available player. It’s not completely clear what the Chiefs have in mind yet, because if they’re looking at Albert’s contract as a one year deal, it may have made more sense to hold onto Winston, not retain Albert, and draft Joeckel to play the left side. As high as Winston’s cap number was going to be, the one year for Albert is certainly higher; moreover, it leaves them with a hole at right tackle after this year when Albert’s contract is up unless they a) convince Albert to play on the right side and sign a contract worth right tackle money (unlikely); b) keep Joeckel on the right side, which would not exactly be maximizing the value of their number one pick; c) trade Albert, which will still leave them with a hole on the right side, but they get something in return. Essentially, the Chiefs did what many Jaguars fans have been clamoring for: drafting the best available player and sticking him on the right side – both to solidify the line and as an insurance policy in case their left tackle doesn’t re-sign after this season.
What does this mean for the Jaguars? Unless you had your hopes set on the Jaguars drafting Luke Joeckel, I can only think of good things.
First, it means that Eric Winston is available at a position the Jaguars sorely need. Although Winston doesn’t make sense for the Jaguars due to his age (29) and due to the salary he may command (probably a downgrade from the 8 mil he would’ve made this year, but how much less?), he played much of his career in a zone blocking system, and even if the Jaguars don’t sign him, Winston will go elsewhere, which will leave another RT available for the Jaguars to sign.
Secondly, I think it makes the number two pick marginally more valuable. Two of the “safest” guys in the draft are left tackles Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher. Behind those two, Lane Johnson is the only tackle likely worth top 15 consideration, and much of that is based on potential. With Joeckel gone, the demand for the other polished tackle, Fisher, should escalate, and teams interested in Fisher that may not have the opportunity to grab him with Oakland and Philadelphia at 3 and 4 may come-a-calling. Furthermore, if Mike Mayock’s assessment of Eric Fisher is true – that he’s basically an equal prospect to Luke Joeckel, then this truly is the best-case scenario for the Jaguars, as they’ll lose out on a player (Joeckel) who has a functional equal (Fisher). If Luke Joeckel is the Andrew Luck of this draft, does that make Eric Fisher this year’s RG III?
– Zain Gowani