Cold Hard Facts: Stefen Wisniewski and the new free-agency deadline
By Brady Henderson
Among the topics discussed during Monday's edition of "Cold Hard Facts" with John Clayton was the Seahawks' continued interest in center Stefen Wisniewski and how it's possibly being impacted by a recent change in the NFL's free-agency calendar.
Wisniewski reportedly met with the Titans on Monday, which brought to six the number of known free-agent visits he has taken. One of the others was with the Seahawks, who remain in the market for a center after parting with Max Unger in the Jimmy Graham trade. Wisniewski visited Seattle during the first week of free agency, and as we noted at the time, his ability to play guard as well could conceivably add to his appeal with the Seahawks also looking to replace James Carpenter, who left in free agency.
Wisniewski just turned 26. He was a second-round pick and a four-year starter in Oakland and he has a sizable list of interested teams. So why is he still unsigned four weeks into free agency?
His price is one reason, Clayton saying that Wisniewski is seeking a deal averaging $5 million a season. For context, a $5 million average would rank 10th on the list of the league's highest-paid centers, according to the website Spotrac.com. It's not cheap, and from the Seahawks' standpoint, it's only a little less than what Unger was scheduled to count against their salary cap in 2015 and more than what Carpenter's deal with the Jets will average.
Another factor possibly tempering Seattle's and other teams' interest in Wisniewski at that price is that he's coming off shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.
And then there's the aforementioned change affecting free agency. As detailed last week by ProFootballTalk.com, which broke the story, the league has moved up from June 1 to May 12 the date after which newly-signed unrestricted free agents no longer count against their new team's compensatory-draft-pick total.
Previously, any team signing another team's unrestricted free agent – i.e., a player whose previous contract expired or was voided as opposed to a player who was released – before June 1 would potentially lose a compensatory selection in the following year's draft. Clayton estimated that a player like Wisniewski would cost his new team a fifth- or sixth-round compensatory pick.
With that deadline moving up, though, any unrestricted free agents that remain unsigned after May 12 will become what are known as street free agents, which have no bearing on the compensatory-pick formula. May 12 is 10 days after the conclusion of the draft and a couple weeks before most teams begin Organized Team Activities. As ProFootballTalk.com noted, that means that a team with remaining needs after the draft could wait until then to sign a free agent and still have him in place for OTAs.
So Seattle and other teams may not be waiting only for Wisniewski's price to come down but also for the May 12 deadline to pass, at which point his signing wouldn't come at the expense of a future compensatory pick.
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