Last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars raised a few eyebrows when they named Andrew Wingard one of their starting safeties ahead of Week 1. They did it again in the tampering period of free agency when Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus reported that they’re bringing him back on an original-round tender.
Wingard wasn’t an unrestricted free agent but rather a restricted one. This means that he has just three accrued seasons. In order to qualify as unrestricted, he or any other NFL player need to have four. The original-round tender he got is worth $2.433 million and while he can negotiate or sign with another club, the Jags can match the offer but won’t get anything in return if he leaves.
An undrafted free agent in 2019, Wingard steadily moved up the depth chart and has become a mainstay of the Jaguars secondary. He’s appeared in 44 games with 21 starts and has logged 168 tackles, five tackles for a loss, two sacks, five passes defensed, and three interceptions, the most recent one coming against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3 of the 2021 season.
Wingard posted a PFF overall grade of 69.1 last year but he also missed 21 tackles. That’s a concerning amount for what’s supposed to be your last line of defense.
The Jaguars can’t keep starting Andrew Wingard in 2022.
Applying the original-round tender on Wingard isn’t a bad move per se. After all, he’s exceeded expectations over the last three years. On the other hand, if the Jaguars thought or any other teams thought he was going to turn into a starting safety, he wouldn’t have gone undrafted. The former Wyoming Cowboys is a grinder but he might have already reached his ceiling and may be better suited for a backup role.
Last season, the Jaguars’ coaching staff seem intent on redshirting rookie Andre Cisco, who didn’t get much playing time throughout most of the year. However, once Wingard was placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list, he the former Orangeman showcased the athleticism that helped him be a playmaker at the collegiate level.
Everybody will likely get a clean slate with head coach Doug Pederson but defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell needs to give Cisco a legitimate chance to earn the starting role opposite Rayshawn Jenkins. Back at Syracuse, Cisco amassed 13 interceptions and 14 passes defensed in 24 games. Had he not had injury red flags in the 2021 NFL Draft, he might have been a first-round selection instead of sliding to the third round.
Bringing back Wingard gives the Jaguars depth but it isn’t the kind of transaction that will move the needle in the tampering period. So far, they’ve been quiet, and although winning free agency doesn’t equate to winning football games, the Jags need to be more aggressive when it comes to upgrading their roster.