It’s over a week since it was revealed Stefen Wisniewski was visiting with the Seahawks. Six days ago Pete Carroll called him a “legitimate starter in the league” and confirmed his interest in doing a deal.
Since then… silence.
There’s no news on any further visits taken by Wisniewski. He was linked to the Bears and Buccs. The Rams reportedly showed some interest in the early stages of free agency. Yet nothing has been reported since he visited Seattle.
He’s every NFL fans last remaining free agency hope. He’s a well known player and an offensive lineman. He’s also young. If you search for his name on Twitter you’ll see endless Tweets from fans pleading with their team to make a move. Yet curiously there’s nothing happening. We’re well beyond even the second phase of free agency now. Dwayne Bowe getting a gig is actually news. That’s where we’re at.
Carroll did admit it wouldn’t be a quick fix:
“It will be some time before this gets worked out. It’s recruiting and we’re battling. He’s a really solid football player and a smart kid. We’ll see where it goes.”
It’d be easier to understand the situation if we knew he was taking other visits. For all we know he might be. The silence instead suggests a position of ‘limbo’ for a player expected to generate a lot of interest.
So what’s going on?
He could be pricing himself out of a move. Rodney Hudson is getting $8.9m APY to replace Wisniewski in Oakland. His cap hit is $13m this year. He almost certainly expects to get a lower salary — but if teams are offering the league average for a center (around $3-4m) and he wants closer to $5-7m, that could be a stumbling block.
He also might not be as accomplished as many people think. Good offensive linemen usually get snapped up especially when they’re in their mid-20’s. Not only did Oakland decide to move on from Wisniewski, they spent major money to replace him. They’ve seemingly shown no interest in re-signing him to play guard. His market might not be any better than Dan Connolly’s (another player Seattle has show interest in). Teams have stayed away from other big names too — B.J. Raji, Michael Crabtree, Brandon Spikes.
Former NFL GM Bill Polian is running a free-agency tracker for ESPN. He gave Wisniewski a ‘C’ grade as he hit the open market — the same as mediocre receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, former Seahawks return man Leon Washington and plodding ex-Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas. Polian’s view could be representative of those in the league — he’s just an average player worthy of a very average salary.
Even Carroll’s language (“solid”, “smart”) is coach code for, “yeah he’s not bad”. The Seahawks have two big holes to fill on the offensive line and Wisniewski would fill one of them while offering a veteran presence. Are the Seahawks willing to make a long term financial commitment, however? And they might want him to come in and compete with Patrick Lewis and possibly a rookie.
I suspect we’re getting closer to a conclusion on this topic. Maybe we’ll hear something in the next few days? Can we read into Seattle’s sudden interest in Connolly or their talks with other free agents like Anthony Spencer, Ahtyba Rubin (signing today, according to Ian Rapoport) and Chris Canty (re-signed with the Ravens)? They don’t have the cap space to make multiple moves. It could be Wisniewski or a couple of low salaried defensive line additions instead.
Neither Rubin or Spencer are players to get particularly excited about but the D-line does require depth. The general strength of the center class could also move the Seahawks towards drafting a rookie and letting the competition play out between said player and Patrick Lewis.
Adding Wisniewski will seem like a smart move because he’d be a perceived immediate starter with experience at a good age. Yet there are several prospects in this draft class with the potential to be superior. I’ve spent a bit of time looking at the position since Max Unger was traded to the Saints. Here’s a few brief early thoughts:
Ali Marpet (Hobart)
Prototype size for the center position and just looks made for the role. It’s hard to judge him in terms of small-school tape at left tackle but you can’t help but be impressed with his combination of size and athleticism. Tony Pauline spoke very highly of him in yesterday’s podcast (see below).
B.J. Finney (Kansas State)
He has the wrestling background Tom Cable loves. He’s a very solid blocker working in a phone booth but doesn’t have great mobility or second level awareness. He is a tough, physical player with NFL size and a terrific initial punch. Nothing flashy but he’ll be an average or slightly above average starter at the next level.
Hroniss Grasu (Oregon)
He’s a battler with the light feet to pull across the line and deliver big-play blocks in the running game. You don’t see Finney’s power at the point of attack but he’s technically sound and more athletic. He’s considered a big-time leader and made for the ZBS. He might have to add a bit of extra weight to play center at the next level but there’s room to grow. Most importantly there’s real evidence he can get to the next level.
Shaq Mason (Georgia Tech)
I’ve only watched one piece of footage but he looks like a dynamo in the run game, driving blockers with ease and winning with consistent leverage. He looks very powerful and strong. It’s hard to judge an interior lineman playing in the triple-option — so often they’re incidental to the play call. He ran a sub-5.0 at his pro-day. If he’s athletic and powerful, he’s one to monitor.
Max Garcia (Florida)
He’s a tackle convert (Seattle seems to like that) and a big character guy. He stood out during the Senior Bowl drills — battling a visibly tiring Danny Shelton and holding his own. On tape he can be hit and miss but he does show a mean streak and some power. You see good hand placement and leverage. Is he mobile enough for the ZBS? Debatable.
I’m yet to watch Boston College’s Andy Gallik and there are potential tackle/guard converts littered throughout this class. For example, athletic tackle Mitch Morse is 6-5 and 305lbs — the exact same measurements as Max Unger. He has short arms (32 and 1/4 inches) so needs to shift inside. However, he benched 35 reps and showed good short-area quickness at the combine (4.50 short shuttle). It’s something to consider.
I discussed the center position, Ali Marpet, Mitch Morse and others with Draft Insider Tony Pauline yesterday. Here’s the podcast if you missed it: