Jacksonville Jaguars could be outbid if Calvin Ridley makes it into free agency

• The Jaguars need to brace themselves to the possiblity of losing Calvin Ridley in free agency.

Dec 4, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) runs
Dec 4, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) runs / Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

With free agency approaching, the Jacksonville Jaguars must figure out what they'll do with wide receiver Calvin Ridley. While they've made it clear they want to bring Ridley back, there's a realistic chance he'll hit the open market. If he does, he will have no shortages of suitors, making a potential return to Jacksonville unlikely.

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN shared his notes on this year's receiving market and projects Ridley to be in demand if he becomes available in free agency.

"The Jaguars very much want to re-sign receiver Calvin Ridley, who had a good experience in Jacksonville, but they know that will be tough if he reaches the negotiating period starting March 11. The expectation is he will put up a rather gaudy number on a per-year average. Teams see elite ability there."

In his column, Fowler points out that Justin Jefferson could get an annual average of $30 million when he signs a new deal. Similarly, he says the Detroit Lions and Amon-Ra St. Brown are working toward a contract that will pay him $26 million to $28 million on average per year. Ridley won't probably command as much but he could still be able to clear the $20 million mark.

On the other hand, Fowlers wonders if the market will cool down because there are so many receivers looking for contracts and this year's draft class is deep. That would bode well for the Jaguars, who may have a tough path re-signing Ridley.

A second-round pick in 2018, he served an indefinite suspension for betting on NFL games. It was during his suspension that the Jaguars traded for him in 2022. He was reinstated last March and went on to post the second 1,000-yard season of his career. Per terms of the deal they made to acquire him, they owe the Atlanta Falcons a third-round pick after he met certain performance conditions.

However, Jacksonville will need to give the Falcons their second-round pick in 2024, instead of the third, if they re-sign Ridley before the beginning of free agency. If they re-sign him after the start or use the franchise tag, which seems unlikely, it will be the third.

The Jaguars should keep Calvin Ridley but may need to be ready to lose him

Unless the Jaguars are willing to give up their second-rounder, there's a strong chance Calvin Ridley will leave in free agency. If the demand does cool down as Jeremy Fowler suggests, maybe they'll have a better shot at re-signing him.

That said, Ridlye will most likely have plenty of suitors if he's available in the open market. After all, he and Mike Evans will be the top two options for teams in need of receiver help. Clubs such as the New York Jets, and the Chicago Bears could make a push for Ridley and both of them will have more cap space than the Jaguars.

Working in the Jaguars' favor is that they could potentially find Ridley's replacement in a receiver class stacked with talent in Rounds 1 and 2. Sure, whoever they end up drafting will be an unproven commodity, unlike Ridley. But the upside is that whatever amount of cap space they had earmarked for Ridley can now use it to address other positions groups, such as cornerback or maybe the interior offensive line.

Both the team's brass and Trevor Lawrence have stated that they'd like Calvin Ridley back. However, his return may ultimately come down to how much the Jaguars and other teams are willing to pay him once he becomes a free agent.

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