The Jacksonville Jaguars gave their wide receiver corps a boost when they acquired wide receiver Calvin Ridley from the Atlanta Falcons before this year’s trade deadline. The downside of the deal is that Ridley is currently serving a one-year suspension for betting on football games in 2021, he won’t be able to suit up for the Jags until next year. This makes it a long-term investment, one that Peter King of NBC Sports called the ‘mystery of the week’ in his latest Football Morning in America column.
King describes Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke as a “risk-taker” and notes that the trade “didn’t saddle the team with a prohibitive draft giveaway“. He later says the deal comes with little downside and he’s right. Here are some of King’s thoughts regarding the trade.
"In the end, Jacksonville took a shot on a player at the top of his game just two years ago, and if he plays well, the cost will be worth it. Atlanta traded a player it apparently had lost faith in, saved $11 million, and could recoup second- and fifth-round picks if Ridley rekindles his career. Seems like a strange, but good, trade for both teams. We’re not going to know the real result for well over a year."
In the worst-case scenario, one where Ridley never plays for the Jags, they would give up just a late-round pick. Conversely, Jacksonville will give the Falcons a second-round selection in 2024 if the wide receiver signs a contract extension, and if that’s the case, that will be because he’s playing at a high level.
A first-round pick by Atlanta in the 2018 draft, Ridley caught 217 passes for 3,061 yards with 26 touchdowns in his first three NFL seasons. He played five games in 2021 before abruptly retiring to focus on his mental health. It was during his retirement that he was slapped with a suspension for placing bets on football.
The Jaguars acquired Calvin Ridley with their sights on the future
Something worth monitoring is Ridley’s health. King notes that for the trade to pay off, the wide receiver must be “in a good frame of mind and if the NFL reinstates him”. Those are a couple of big “ifs”. On the bright side, Ridley seems to be thrilled to have been traded and posted on social media not long after the trade that he’s healthy.
Due to the suspension, the team can’t get in touch with Ridley, which makes it difficult to assess his current health. But let’s say he’s healthy and the league does lift his suspension. He would round out Jacksonville’s wide receiver corps and give Trevor Lawrence a true No. 1 receiver.
As John Shipley of Sports Illustrated recently pointed out, the 2023 wide receiver market doesn’t look particularly thrilling. Moreover, preventively acquiring Ridley will let the team’s brass focus on other position needs next offseason.
While a prospect such as TCU’s Quentin Johnston would be too good to pass up in next year’s draft, the Jags also need to revamp their defensive front and their cornerback group. Based on their 2022 record, they will probably clinch a selection in the top 10, which they could then use on someone like Jalen Carter or William Anderson Jr.
It will be a while before the Jaguars can truly know if Ridley can contribute but they should be thrilled about the prospect of adding a game-changer for a relatively low price. Several Jaguars players certainly are and can’t wait for him to join the team.