If the NFL ever decided to add a 33rd team, they would need to hold an expansion draft and if for some reason they made it happen in 2023, Alex Kay of Bleacher Report thinks Jacksonville Jaguars safety Andrew Wingard would be a solid pick.
Kay put together an expansion roster and believes Wingard would be a solid pick at safety, noting that the former Wyoming Cowboy has starting experience and can play multiple roles in the back end of the defense.
"This expansion squad can round out its safety corps with a reliable defender in Andrew Wingard. While Wingard fell out of favor with Jacksonville Jaguars last year after starting 15 games in 2021, he's shown capable of being a versatile piece who can line up at several different spots. Whether he's in the box as an extra linebacker or back deep, the 26-year-old is a reliable tackle who can make plays in coverage. "
An undrafted free agent in 2019, Wingard worked his way up the roster and saw his playing time progressively increase. He was named the Week 1 starter in 2021 over rookie Andre Cisco but was relegated to a backup and special teams role last season. Off the field, the safety became a vocal leader and came up with the rallying cry, "It was always the Jags" during Jacksonville's playoff plush in the 2022 season.
Wingard was scheduled to become a free agent in March but the Jaguars brought him back on a three-year deal worth $9 million, demonstrating how important they think he was to the team's success last year. As Kay noted, he can come off the bench and start a few games if either Cisco or Rayshawn Jenkins had to miss time.
Former Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue also was selected in Kay's expansion draft. Darnell Savage Jr. also filled the other safety slot and other prominent players to get the nod were Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Russell Gage, free agent guard Jonah Williams and cornerback Marcus Peters.
In an expansion draft, every team has to make five players available and if the new kid in the club picks one of them, this team can then protect one of the remaining four. And if the new franchise draft two players from the said team, they can remove the three that are left.
Andrew Wingard has developed into a key contributor for the Jacksonville Jaguars
Even though Wingard won't put up huge numbers but he's been reliable for the Jaguars over the last four years. Back in 2021, when he started 15 games, he scored a Pro Football Focus overall grade of 69.0. And although his playing time decreased last year, he still managed to post a 79.9 grade on 217 defensive snaps. On top of that, he's had at least one interception in each of the last three years.
And that's the thing, salary cap rules make it impossible for clubs to buy an All-Star roster, so they need to look for players that can deliver when called upon. Wingard is one of those players. Whether he's on the sidelines, on the return team, or in the starting lineup, he'll do whatever the Jags ask him because he'll do whatever it takes to win.
When you think of players that will be key to the Jacksonville Jaguars' success in 2023, the likes of Trevor Lawrence and wide receiver come to mind but they'll also need unsung contributors such as Andrew Wingard to shine.