The Philadelphia Eagles made an interesting addition to their offensive line this week by signing Stefen Wisniewski to a one-year contract. It's not always the case that teams can find capable starters this late in NFL free agency, but that's exactly what the Eagles found in Wisniewski. The 27-year-old blocker has started 77 career games at a combination of guard and center. In order to get to know Wisniewski better, here's more insight from Raiders writer Levi Damien (@LeviDamien) of Silver And Black Pride along with Jaguars writer Ryan Day (@ryaneatscake) of Big Cat Country.
1) Were Raiders fans disappointed he left in free agency last offseason?
The Raiders had the chance to re-sign him and had discussions during the season to do so. Wisniewski wasn't agreeable to the contract the Raiders were offering. It was seen as a risky move to let him test the market, but one that could pay off if all went as planned. The team was gearing up to make a run at Rodney Hudson which was the only surefire upgrade on the market. The risk paid off as they landed Hudson by making him the highest paid center in the league. The move to change out Wisniewski for Hudson was widely popular. With that in mind, the Raiders wanted the option to move Wisniewski to guard if/when they landed Hudson and the longer Wisniewski was on the market, the more fans held out hope he might re-sign to play guard. But he wanted to remain at starting center, so he joined his former offensive coordinator Greg Olsen in Jacksonville.
2) What are his strengths?
He is a great blocker both in the run game and pass protection. Football is in his blood as his uncle Steve was a Hall of Fame caliber left guard over a decorated 13-year career with the Raiders. His father Leo also played football at Penn State and was second round pick by the Colts in 1982, playing three seasons at nose tackle. Stefen is a leader in the locker room and an intelligent, high character guy.
3) What are his weaknesses?
Snapping the ball became a real issue for him over his last two seasons for the Raiders. Which, for a center, is kinda important.
4) The Eagles might use Wiz as their starting left guard. How much experience does Wiz have at that position? Can he be a solid starter there?
He began at guard with the Raiders as a rookie while Samson Satele was still at center. He played quite well at the position and the Raiders had their best season in a long time with that combination. But they drafted him as a center and that's where he would play. I would venture to say the Eagles may have stumbled upon a good situation. If Wisniewski is willing to play guard, it's probably because he ran out of options to remain a center. I have long thought guard would be his best fit. You can also refer back to his Hall of Fame level uncle as proof that he was meant to play left guard.
5) Why do you think he drew so little interest on the market both last offseason and this offseason?
Last offseason, he was coming off a season in which he was hampered by injury. I also point back to what I said about his wanting to continue playing center. He held out before signing a one-year deal with the Jaguars hoping he could prove he was a starting NFL center. That clearly didn't happen and it took a few visits, going unsigned for him to come to that realization. As a starting guard who can slide to center in case of injury, he could be quite valuable. I like the signing for the Eagles and would suspect he will play well at guard.
1) How would you rate Wiz’s performance in 2015?
I'd call it average. Maybe even slightly below average. He brought stability to the interior of the offensive line, but it wasn’t necessarily the upgrade that most people thought it would be... and he didn’t really do anything exceptionally well. He kept himself from being penalized a lot and was better in pass protection than run blocking (much, much better) but he had some errant snaps that cost us at least one game. In all, he wouldn't be my first choice for a starting interior lineman, but he's a fine backup who can play all three interior spots.
2) Did Jags fans want the team to keep him?
Mostly no. He didn’t really add anything in run blocking like the Jaguars had hoped. And while he was serviceable in pass protection, the team struggled to run the football with any consistency. Some of that comes down to him playing between a rookie in A.J. Cann and lackluster guard Zane Beadles and some of it comes down to his subpar performance.
3) Did he get any looks at guard at any point? The Eagles might be using him there.
I believe he got some snaps at guard in the preseason, but I can't really be sure. In the regular season, he was our center and we didn't deviate from that. We couldn't. Our backup center Luke Bowanko must have been pretty bad because we had to move some guys around along the interior and he still didn't get a single snap all year.
4) Anything else to know?
I don't really have a lot of first-hand knowledge of Wisniewski as a guard. All we saw him as was a center, and like I said he was average. To me, he's a swing backup who pushes other guys in camp to be better and win their jobs. If that's what he does with the Eagles, he could be worth his contract right there. If you're looking for him to be a cornerstone guard, well, I wouldn't get your hopes up.