Oakland Raiders, Stefen Wisniewski Disagreeing on Value in Contract Negotiations


Last season the Oakland Raiders let their two biggest expiring contracts walk on the open market in Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer, deciding to let both players prove that they could get the paydays they thought they were worth in pre-free agency negotiations with general manager Reggie McKenzie rather than overpay both talents to stay in Oakland. As everyone knows by now, both players ended up taking contracts with what they felt were teams that gave them better chances of winning (it worked out for Veldheer, who made the playoffs in Arizona) and paid them just below what they were reportedly asking from the Raiders before hitting the open market.

Now in 2015, McKenzie is being a faced with a similar situation with what is his one high priority free agent in starting center Stefen Wisniewski. Wisniewski is coming off of one of the worst seasons of his career per Pro Football Focus, one that featured several uncharacteristic turnovers on snap exchanges with rookie quarterback Derek Carr, but the center still feels he is worth a considerable payday as the starter on the Raiders offensive line. Something that may be not be what general manager Reggie McKenzie has in mind after Wisniewski hasn’t played overly well over the McKenzie’s regime at the center position as a serviceable player who has been far from dominant in his week by week performance for the Raiders.

Still, Wisniewski has ranked as a replacement level starter for the Raiders per Pro Football Focus over his past seasons at the center position. Grading 14th amongst starting centers last season after ranking 11th during the 2013 season, regressing slightly in a contract season, but still ranking amongst the top half of starting players at his position on a value contract for Oakland. It also appears that Wisniewski wants to be paid as a starter who is in the top half of the league at his position in terms of production, something that may be causing a rift between the two sides as March 10 nears for the beginning of free agency.

There have been rumblings and speculation from various sources this winter that Wiz is looking to be paid a mid-level salary that would put him around the Top 15 in terms of highest paid centers in the NFL with his next contract. That number could be around $3-5 million based on the market for centers who are near the top half of centers in the league, a figure the Raiders could surely afford, but may choose to call Wisniewski’s bluff on in the open market before paying out even if it runs the risk of losing him to another team.

CSN Bay Area’s Scott Bair reported earlier this week that may just be the case for the two sides, who have what he described as a “discrepancy in value” between the two sides that could lead to McKenzie allowing the center to test other waters or leave Oakland altogether despite his family ties to the Raiders if he doesn’t get the contract he feels he is worth before free agency begins.

From CSN Bay Area:

"Center Stefen Wisniewski is the biggest name in that group, and the Raiders won’t consider a franchise tag number expected to be just north of $12 million for an offensive lineman.There’s been little progress between Wisniewski and the Raiders to this point. There’s a value discrepancy between the camps, which might get ironed out in the open market. It could also result in Wisniewski leaving town."

Based on most of the reports this offseason, it is looking more and more likely that the Raiders could be moving on from Wisniewski come free agency, opting to find an upgrade in free agency if Wiz wants to be paid in the top half of his position or pursuing their options in the draft where they could try to find a younger option to build a relationship with Carr under center. If that is the case Raiders fans will be likely disappointed to see a name with history with the team with his family as well as the player himself who has served the team for the past seasons as a starter walk with a rather low asking price compared to their salary cap.

More from Las Vegas Raiders Free Agency

However there are some veteran names that the Raiders could go out and pursue on the open market that could come cheaper than Wiz while providing similar (or greater) talent. Names such as Samson Satele, Joe Berger, Brian De la Puente, Rodney Hudson, and even Dominic Raiola could all be negotiated with if they hit the open market by March 10 as veteran replacements who could be paired with an apprentice through the draft to give the Raiders options if their starting center does indeed decide to walk if he isn’t given what he wants before free agency begins.

Even if McKenzie has options in the case of Wiz leaving town, it may be best for the team to simply give him a contract that puts him around the Top 15 contracts at his position based on their cap space along with his familiarity with the team. If the Raiders can’t find an upgrade it would be silly to play hardball with the 25 year old even if his camp appears to be doing the same. Unlike Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer, Wisniewski’s demands appear to be much more reasonable, just wanting to be paid as a consistent starter rather than earning a big payday to stay with the team. It is up to McKenzie and the front office to decide, but for now it appears the two sides are at a point where Wiz hitting the open market is going to be a reality come the afternoon of March 10 when free agency officially begins.