There are plenty of salary cap facing the Eagles this offseason and with 13 players set to enter free agency if Howie Roseman fails to negotiate new contracts, there are going to be some very difficult decisions to make. One of the most important decisions however will be how they approach the future of Stefen Wisniewski.
The Eagles signed Wisniewski during the offseason to a 1-year deal with a base salary of $0.750M and $0.500M guaranteed. Signed purely for depth purposes, Wis was clear about his intentions coming in. He wanted to be a starter. Arriving with the aim of claiming the starting left guard spot in training camp, Wisniewski eventually lost out to Allen Barbre and became the backup center behind Jason Kelce. During Training camp, Wis also shed some light on what his future holds.
“I wasn’t getting the kind of money I was looking for in a long-term deal, so I kind of wanted to sign a one-year deal and get back to being a free agent again,”
A starter what he very nearly became in 2016. In the eight games he played in, Wis would take to the field in a total of 53% of offensive snaps. Wisniewski’s decision to sign a “prove-it” deal in Philadelphia may have worked out to be a hugely beneficial decision for him. The 27-year old was able to play a lot of regular season football at a position he wishes to find long-term security at. The question is, will the Eagles give it to him?
If you mention the Eagles left guard position, the natural reaction is to think of Allen Barbre. However according to a report from Jimmy Kempski, the 32-year old “isn’t safe” from the Eagles projected cap purge. If that is the case and the team part ways with Barbre, it leaves them with a dilemma. Do they proceed to get younger at the position, perhaps giving that spot to third-round draft pick, Isaac Seumalo, or do they pay Stefen Wisniewski to fill that void and give him the long-term starting security he seeks?
If the Eagles were to let both Barbre and Wisniewski walk, two players who combined for a total of 1,279 offensive snaps in 2016, they would be once again left with a hole on the offensive line. Jason Peters isn’t going to be around forever and the questions over the penalty plagued play of Jason Kelce continue to arise.
Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivati Vaaitai would be the next two guys up, both of whom developed well during their rookie years. Vaitai’s learning curve was far steeper than that of the former Oregon lineman, but by the end of the year, both had flashed the potential the Eagles coaching staff believed them to have. Vaitai’s experience came heavily at the expense of Lane Johnson, while Seumalo’s snaps were predominantly taken at the guard position. Is that sample size enough to convince the Eagles to elevate them both to more prominent roles in 2017?
Without Wis or Barbre, the Offensive line would likely look like this:
RT: Lane Johnson
RG: Brandon Brooks
C: Jason Kelce
LG: (Isaac Seumalo/ Halapoulivaati Vaitai)
RT: Jason Peters
The problem is that they would once again be light on depth, needing to fill that void through free agency or the draft. The Eagles already have plenty to worry about in the draft, especially when it comes to reinforcing the pass-rush and adding starting talent to skill positions. Opening up another hole could be a big risk to take.
One way or the other, the Eagles have a tough decision to make at the left guard spot. They either:
-Ride Allen Barbre for one more season, allowing him to play out his contract and potentially end his career as an Eagle, or test the waters of free agency. In doing that, they will likely lose Wisniewski to free agency this year and hope that Seumalo will be ready to sit upon the Throne when called.
– Deem the play of Wisniewski this season worthy enough of a long-term extension, cementing his future on the Eagles offensive line and cutting Allen Barbre for some cap relief. In doing so, they’re likely limiting the ceiling of Isaac Seumalo because both Brandon Brooks and Stefen Wisniewski will now be tied to long-term deals, lowering the ceiling of production that Seumalo can provide. His versatility could serve him well, but there’s no guarantee he would accumulate a starting role during his rookie deal.
– Or, they let Wisniewski test free agency with a healthy body of work on his resume and then cut Allen Barbre. They hand the torch over to Isaac Seumalo while Vaitai backs up the tackle spots and unless they plan on keeping Matt Tobin, Darell Greene or the ever shocking Dallas Thomas on the 53-man roster, will have to source at least one replacement.
It’s certainly a tricky situation and one that has been drastically overlooked by many. But the Eagles could well see a domino effect rip through their Offensive line if they don’t act quickly, opening another hole on the roster that could have been easily prevented.
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports