One of the Raiders’ biggest decisions this offseason is whether to re-sign center Stefen Wisniewski.
After four years in Oakland, the former Penn State standout is an unrestricted free agent, and general manager Reggie McKenzie will have to decide whether to let him walk or stay.
Wisniewski, who reportedly made $978,000 in 2014, wants a significantly larger deal to stay in Oakland. But is he worth it?
Wisniewski has been reliable and durable – two qualities that have been lacking on Oakland’s revolving door of an offensive line the past few seasons. But his play has been graded as just average by some observers. Pro Football Focus graded him as the 22nd-best center in the NFL last season.
Speaking at the NFL Combine last week, McKenzie told Bill Williamson of ESPN.com “I don’t know” when asked if Wisniewski might be re-signed before hitting free agency on March 10.
“Our guys have talked to him and we’ve been talking to Wiz since last summer,” said McKenzie. “But we’re going to see how it plays out. There’s always a right price to everything.”
So, if the Raiders let him go – and there appears to be a free-agent market interested in him – who might the team bring in to replace him?
Two of the most attractive candidates are Chiefs center Rodney Hudson and Brian De La Puente of the Bears, both expected to be available.
According to Williamson, Hudson might be the best replacement – but come with a high price tag, perhaps as much as $7 million or more per season.
“Hudson is considered one of the best centers available and could fit in the Raiders’ plan of using more no-huddle offense,” wrote Williamson.
Hudson is coming off his best season in 2014 when he was ranked as the No. 3 player at his position by Pro Football Focus. He will be 26 by opening day. Hudson’s agent met with Chiefs representatives at last week’s NFL Combine, and Kansas City has expressed interest in re-signing him. But the Chiefs are reported to be just about $4.5 million under the salary cap, and may not be able to meet Hudson’s price while also keeping other free agents on the roster.
De La Puente, 29, has played both center and guard in the NFL. He’s coming off an ankle injury that ended his season in November. His grade at center by Pro Football Focus wasn’t close to Hudson’s, but his price tag would be significantly less.
If Wisniewski is allowed to walk, Raiders fans may still see him twice a year with the Broncos. Adam Caplan of NFL.com has reported Denver is likely to have strong interest in him.