The Oakland Raiders do not have many big name players scheduled to hit the free agent market this season, but there is one name on the minds of many around the organization: center Stefen Wisniewski. The nephew of Raider great Steve Wisniewski, Stefen has been a starter ever since the Raiders chose him in the second round of the 2011 draft. In his first season he started at guard, then he moved to center where he has been ever since.
Wisniewski has been solid for the Raiders but is far from anything special. The problem is, he appears to want to be paid as though he is something special.
Pending free agent Stefen Wisniewski says #Raiders made a few offers but nothing he was looking for. Sunday could be final game w/ team
— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) December 26, 2014
While general manager Reggie McKenzie has said he doesn’t believe in spending through free agency, he has shown a willingness to be fair in how he pays his own guys. Since coming to the Raiders, Sebastian Janikowski, Tyvon Branch and Marcel Reece have all received contract extensions that are far from what one would consider being cheap. But he has also shown that he will not overpay a player simply because he was homegrown, allowing both Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston to walk in free agency last year.
Center is the most important position on the offensive line other than left tackle, and replacing a three-year starter is no easy task. It’s even more difficult when you consider how many holes the Raiders already have to fill this offseason.
With an abundance of cap space, the Raiders could easily re-sign Wisniewski if they choose. However, that would go against McKenzie’s goal of keeping the salary cap under control. There will be plenty of Raiders players worth re-signing at a large cost to the team, but Wisniewski is not one of those guys.
In Wisniewski’s best season with the Raiders, he received an 11.4 grade on Pro Football Focus, which is very solid. But that was somewhat of an illusion. His rookie season saw him get a 0.5, his sophomore season was closer with an 8.1 but last year he took a big step backwards with a -2.5, not exactly what you want to see from a guy in his contract season when he is supposed to be highly motivated.
Wisniewski is a bit undersized for his position at just over 300 pounds, and it often shows in the passing game when he is pushed off of his mark and into the pocket. His run blocking has been better, but still nothing to write home about. It would be nice for the Raiders to be able to hang onto him but he also represents a position that the team would likely want to upgrade at some point in the future anyway.