Ex Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell had an eye for signing undrafted free agents
The Jacksonville Jaguars have re-signed cornerback Tre Herndon and safety Andrew Wingard. Both players went undrafted but have become important contributors for the Jags over the last few years. And former general manager Dave Caldwell deserves credit for identifying them.
Make no mistake. Caldwell wasn't particularly great at acquiring players in the NFL Draft. Most of the players he selected in the first round went on to become non-factor. Sure, every general manager is going to have misses every now and then but Caldwell's batting average was pretty awful. Back in 2018, he passed on Lamar Jackson in favor of defensive tackle Taven Bryan.
Similarly, Caldwell used the second overall pick in 2013 to take offensive tackle Luke Joeckel. Although that wasn't a great year to acquire difference-makers in the top 10, the Philadelphia Eagles took Lane Johnson just two picks later, so it's hard to justify the Jaguars' blunder.
Those are just two of Caldwell's several gaffes in the draft but nobody can question his knack for discovering undrafted gems. Tyler Shatley, the longest-tenured player on the Jaguars roster, was the first one of many. Right off the bat, Caldwell knew he had found a keeper, so he signed him in 2014. In the same year, he inked wide receiver Allen Hurns, who crossed the 1,000-yard receiving mark in his sophomore campaign.
The Jaguars and Dave Caldwell hit a home run with James Robinson
Other undrafted players Caldwell signed were safety Jarrod Wilson, cornerback Mike Hilton, and wide receiver Allen Lazard. Despite the fact that the Jaguars quickly moved on from Hilton and Lazard, Caldwell deserves partial credit for originally discovering them. However, his biggest find might have been running back James Robinson, who quickly became a playmaker in Jacksonville and just signed a two-year deal worth $8 million with the New England Patriots.
Robinson made 2017 first-round pick Leonard Fournette expendable and entered the 2020 season as the Jags' No. 1 running back. The former Illinois State Redbird went on to register 1,414 yards from scrimmage that year, the most by an undrafted rookie in league history. Although Robinson was phased out in favor of Travis Etienne last year, he was one of the team's only playmakers during his first two NFL seasons.
Wilson was released in 2021 and Robinson was traded to the New York Jets last year but they were two of the few playmakers Jacksonville had during the 2020 season and Caldwell should get a bit of recognition. In the same manner, Herndon, Wingard, and Shatley deserve credit for outlasting several regimes and signing new deals despite the team's frequent turnover. Despite the fact that none of them are poised to have featured roles for the Jags in 2022, they shouldn't go unnoticed, especially when you take into account how much they've had to overcome to get to where they currently are.
Caldwell rightfully was rightfully given the boot after underperforJacksonvilleming for several years. However, the Jacksonville Jaguars' decision to resign Wingard and Herndon should bring attention to his solid track record of signing undrafted free agents.