Ex Jaguars WR Calvin Ridley dubbed non-QB under pressure to deliver in 2024

• CBS Sports believes Calvin Ridley has something to prove after leaving the Jaguars for the Titans.
Dec 24, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) receives a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium.
Dec 24, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) receives a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium. / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Calvin Ridley was a playmaker in 2023. Not surprisingly, the Jacksonville Jaguars wanted to re-sign him in free agency. In the end, though, he bolted for the Tennessee Titans because they made him a better offer. But with a new contract comes expectations and Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports believes Ridley will be under pressure to deliver next season.

Benjamin drew up a list of non-quarterbacks who are under pressure ahead of the 2024 season and included Ridley, noting that he may play a big role in sophomore Will Levis' development.

"Even though his Jacksonville Jaguars debut in 2023 proved more streaky than special, Ridley commanded top dollar this offseason, securing $23 million per year from Tennessee going on 30. That's a sizable bet for a team that just last season looked years away from truly competing. DeAndre Hopkins is also onboard, but Ridley could be key to quarterback Will Levis' development."

Leaving money aside, Ridley says that a few things convinced him to sign with the Titans. Specifically, he points to general manager Ran Carthon's pitch to play for them and the presence of DeAndre Hopkins as deciding factors.

A second-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2018, Ridley was serving a suspension for betting on football games when the Jaguars traded for him. After registering 217 catches for 3,061 yards with 26 touchdowns in his first three NFL seasons, he experienced a dropoff in 2021 and decided to hang up the cleats in the middle of the regular season.

It was during his retirement that Ridley was caught placing wagers and earned the suspension. He was reinstated in 2023 and revealed that he was also playing through a broken foot in 2021. Once he could partake in offseason activities, it didn't take the Florida native much time to prove he was fully healthy.

Ridley ultimately went on to catch 76 catches for 1,016 yards with eight touchdowns last season. Moreover, he drew a league-high seven defensive pass interference penalties. This means opposing teams were wary of the threat he posed. On the other hand, he also had puzzling drops at crucial times.

The Jaguars felt comfortable letting Calvin Ridley walk

As good as Calvin Ridley was for the Jaguars, they weren't interested in getting into a bidding war with their division foes. Losing him surely hurt but they believe they have an adequate replacement in rookie Brian Thomas Jr., who's so far flashed during offseason activities.

For his part, Ridley will need to show he deserved a top-market contract from the Tennessee Titans. Last year, he was coming off his suspension, so expectations were somewhat tempered. Now, he must live up to his new deal, and there's a chance he might not be able to. Working in his favor is that Tennessee has enough weapons in the passing game, so opposing defenses won't be able to zero in on him.

On the other hand, Will Levis has yet to prove he's a franchise quarterback. While he flashed as a rookie, he also showed that he's got his work cut out before he's given the keys to the team long-term. In particular, his accuracy will need to improve.

And that's the thing, regardless of how Will Levis performs, Calvin Ridley will be asked to play at a high level. Whether he pulls it off will be one of the biggest storylines of the 2024 NFL season.

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