One by one, the Eagles are filling in any roster opening they can find. Looking for a linebacker? Check. Signing Zach Brown 10 days ago helped that group massively. Hoping to add some depth at defensive tackle? Nailed that one by signing Tim Jernigan to a one-year contract the day before the NFL Draft and then trading for Hassan Ridgeway, using a seventh-round draft pick as ammunition. How about some young safeties to challenge the group? Bingo! The Eagles claimed Godwin Igwebuike and Blake Countess off of waivers shortly after the conclusion of the draft.
Offensive guard, as it turns out, and with someone we all know.
The Eagles on Monday morning announced that veteran guard/center Stefen Wisniewski will return after his whirlwind trip through free agency which landed him right back where he started – in Philadelphia. Wisniewski provides valuable depth at both guard positions and at center, and the Eagles welcome his experience.
Signed as an unrestricted free agent prior to the 2016 campaign, Wisniewski started 24 of the 46 games he played with the Eagles. In 2018, Wisniewski started the opening four games before Isaac Seumalo became the starter, and then when Seumalo went out late in the regular season with a pectoral injury, Wisniewski was back in for the final three games as the Eagles reached the playoffs. Seumalo was deemed healthy for the postseason and he jumped back in as the starter for the games in Chicago and New Orleans.
Seumalo signed a three-year contract extension in the offseason and is firmly entrenched as the starter at left guard. Jason Kelce, an All-Pro in each of the last two seasons, is the center. And Brandon Brooks, a two-time Pro Bowl player, is the starter at right guard as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon injury suffered in the playoff loss to the Saints. Brooks has reported on his social media accounts his progress in recovering from the injury, but there is still no official timetable for his return to the offense.
Wisniewski’s depth and experience are valuable for the Eagles as they build their offensive line group. The team added tackle Andre Dillard in the draft but did not specifically address the interior of the line in the seven rounds. Second-year man Matt Pryor is expected to challenge for a roster spot and a bump up in the depth chart. The Eagles feel they have some other young players who are ready to take the next step forward across the line, but without Wisniewski and Chance Warmack, who remains an unrestricted free agent, the Eagles lacked a proven veteran to swing between the guard positions and center.
Consider that need filled with the return of Wisniewski.
Adding Wisniewski to the mix continues a remarkable run of success for the Eagles before, during, and after the NFL Draft. The Eagles have been able to retain some of their key veterans – defensive end Brandon Graham and cornerback Ronald Darby lead that list. They've also brought in impact veterans like defensive tackle Malik Jackson (free agency), wide receiver DeSean Jackson (trade), and running back Jordan Howard (trade), and still had room to bring back players like Wisniewski, defensive end Vinny Curry, and Jernigan as well as add pieces throughout the roster.
A team that went two rounds deep into the 2018 postseason has loaded up a roster that should make the cut from 90 players to 53 players very difficult for the coaching staff and for Howie Roseman. That’s how good this roster appears to be as the Eagles have played the market so brilliantly in the offseason.
Wisniewski’s career has been an interesting one. He always seems to be counted out, and then he ends up playing significant snaps. Wisniewski started all 77 of the games he played with Oakland and Jacksonville even though he was never an in-ink kind of starter. Same thing with the Eagles, who signed him as a "depth" player in 2016. But then Wisniewski started six games in 2016, 11 in the regular season and all three playoff wins in the Super Bowl season of 2017, and then had seven more starts last year.
He’s back, after testing free agency and not finding the right situation. The Eagles waited, stayed in touch with Wisniewski, and ultimately brought him back. It's another under-the-radar move that could pay off in a winning way in the season to come.