Stefen Wisniewski, Denver Broncos Interest Could Develop in Free Agency
By Chase Ruttig
Dec 28, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders center Stefen Wisniewski (61) lines up against the Denver Broncos in the first quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Oakland Raiders center Stefen Wisniewski is part of family tradition on the Silver and Black, but the offensive line starter who has spent his entire career in the Bay Area could be on his way out as his contract negotiations continue to stall with general manager Reggie McKenzie.
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Wiz, who is looking to get paid in the top half of center contracts in the NFL on his new deal, is coming off of one of his more forgettable seasons with the Raiders where he wasn’t as dominant as many hoped in a contract year. Even more concerning were his turnover problems with a rookie quarterback in Derek Carr, compiling a list of botched snaps that seemed to cost the Raiders at inopportune times over the course of the season.
Because of the average play of Wiz there appears to be a disconnect in contract value that has led to stalled negotiations heading into March, a negative sign when you consider that last year high priority free agents left Oakland once they entered the final week before free agency without new deals in place.
Even if Wisniewski has been a serviceable starter, there is a likely outcome here that has the center leaving Oakland for a better deal if McKenzie allows him to test the market. Something that could backfire on the Raiders who have no secondary option in place if they allow their longest serving starting lineman leave rather than give him a contract that would pay him like a player who has started nearly every game since being selected in the 2011 Draft out of Penn State.
More concerning is that the Raiders rivals in the Denver Broncos could be in the market for a center come March 10, heating up what could be a bidding war between the two teams as several of Denver’s players have already been attached to Oakland. According to ESPN’s Adam Caplan the Broncos could strike back by attempting to poach Wiz, who would be one of the high end options at his position in free agency, from the Raiders are center is one of their team needs this offseason.
Having considerable cap space and few free agents that need to be retained, McKenzie could let Wiz name his price, but it appears that both sides can’t come to an agreement for whatever reason when it comes to what that price should be. Wisniewski is far from a Pro Bowler, and although he provides an important role, McKenzie for the time being appears to be wanting to let the market decide the price before matching what is offered to his player.
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Letting Wiz get offers from other teams after not getting a deal done raises a huge risk as players who hit the open market rarely seem to stay with their current teams once they become unrestricted free agents. Negotiations between the two parties appear to be non-existent and unpromising, so if Wiz does hit the open market and the Broncos are interested the end result could be one that Raiders fans will be displeased with if Wiz walks to their rivals.
Most want to see Wiz get retained, and there is still time for that to be accomplished, but McKenzie also can’t force a player to sign on the dotted line at a fair price. The Raiders high cap space figure always seems to create a gulf between team, player, and agent when it comes to retaining expiring contracts over the past few seasons. Agents wanting to try to bargain McKenzie into spending above market value for in-house talent that has been evidenced in the past with Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer.
That might be the case again here as a high priority unrestricted free agent feels the cap heavy team he plays for can afford to give him a good payday. McKenzie does not overpay often, not even for his own players unless he has to which means the open market could be seen by Wiz. If that does become a reality, it runs the big risk of the starting center in Oakland heading to another team. That could be the Broncos and it could also be a bad look for the general manager who won’t please many fans if a starting quality player heads to a rival to begin 2015 Free Agency.