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Brian Winters Ready To Compete On Cardinals' Offensive Line

Starting right guard spot still up in the air

G Brian Winters speaks with the media on Tuesday.
G Brian Winters speaks with the media on Tuesday.

For three years in New York, Brian Winters and Kelvin Beachum were regularly together, both on and off the field.

The ex-Jets offensive linemen officially reunited as teammates on Tuesday when Winters signed his one-year contract with the Cardinals. That means the off-field hangouts can resume, but what about the on-field proximity?

Three of the Cardinals' five offensive line spots are nailed down, as left tackle D.J. Humphries, left guard Justin Pugh – who took a paycut to stick around – and center Rodney Hudson will enter the season as unquestioned starters.

Beachum is the front-runner to keep his right tackle job, while Winters is an option to slide in as the starting right guard. They will likely need to beat out Josh Jones and Justin Murray for those spots.

"I think there is going to be a lot of competition," General Manager Steve Keim said. "(Offensive line coach) Sean Kugler is committed to truly putting the best five out there. It's going to be a fun offseason to see these guys compete at those different spots, and what materialize as our best five."

Winters wasn't making any grand proclamations during his introductory press conference, declining to say whether he thought the right guard battle was an open competition.

"I'm just going to come in here and compete, do everything I can to help this team out however that is," he said. "I'm excited for the opportunity and I'm excited to be here."

However it shakes out, Winters should adjust quickly with some friends in the position group. Winters said he joined the Cardinals in large part because of his pre-existing relationships with Pugh and Beachum.

"Justin and I came out in the same draft class, so we have a connection through there, just through the combine," Winters said. "(Kelvin) is a great dude and I respect everything he's doing and how he plays the game. Every time I talk to him, he's said nothing but good things about here. It made the decision very easy."

Winters has been a starter for much of his career, though he lost his job late last season with Buffalo. He was still in the lineup when the Bills played at State Farm Stadium in mid-November, and watched from the sideline the miraculous Hail Murray connection from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins.

"That was definitely one of those games that you come off the field thinking you still won," Winters said. "You drive down the field and put up that last-second touchdown, and then Kyler comes out and does something incredible."

Winters is excited about blocking for Murray, and Keim feels the same about adding the veteran to the offensive line mix.

"He's a guy I've watched for years dating back to Kent State when he came out," Keim said. "A really physical player. Smart. Really good quickness in a short area. And I think he does a great job in pass protection. He's a guy that will certainly have a chance to compete (for the starting guard spot)."

There is no word yet on if that competition can start this offseason, or if COVID-19 will delay practices until training camp. If he's left to his own devices, Winters has a unique way of staying ready.

Back in his Jets days, he would challenge nose tackle Steve McLendon to see who could strap a harness around their waist and pull the most vehicles down the street.

"I think at one point it got up to like three trucks," Winters said. "It's just another way to train instead of running every day."

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