By all accounts, wide receiver Calvin Ridley's first season with the Jacksonville Jaguars was a success. Although he had a few rough outings, he also managed to cross the 1,000-yard mark and score eight touchdowns. This is even more impressive when you take into account that he hadn't played football in more than a year. Not surprisingly, the Jags would like to have Ridley back, something general manager Trent Baalke emphasized during his latest exchange with the local media.
Baalke told reporters Thursday that the team liked what Ridley accomplished in 2023, noting that last season was a sample of the things he can achieve, "When you bring somebody in that hasn't been a part of football for over a year and a half. You got to knock the rust off," the general manager said. "He did that and at times he showed exactly who he was, who he can be, and the sky is the limit."
"He's only going to get better because of the way he works. "When you love something as much as he loves football, he can't help but get better, so we would love to have Calvin back. We're going to work toward that. What that means. I don't know right now," Baalke said.
Ridley, a second-round pick in the 2018 draft, was a game-changer for the Atlanta Falcons in his first three NFL campaigns. However, he played through a broken leg in 2021 and stepped away midseason to focus on getting better physically and mentally. Not long after hanging up his cleats, he was suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games.
While serving his suspension, Ridley was traded to the Jaguars at the 2022 deadline. He applied for reinstatement last February and it was granted to him a month later. The Alabama product joined the team as soon as he was eligible and routinely got the spotlight during training camp.
When the season came, Ridley showed he could still take over games but he also disappeared at times. In the end, he tallied 1,016 receptions and eight touchdowns on 76 receptions. On top of that, he drew a league-high seven defensive pass interference calls for 190 yards, helping the offense routinely move his chains.
Now, Ridley is set to become a free agent and whether the Jaguars keep him around will be one of the biggest decisions they'll have to make in the offseason.
The Jacksonville Jaguars must decide the best course of action with Calvin Ridley
There are two things that could prevent the Jacksonville Jaguars from bringing Calvin Ridley back in 2024. The first one is that they'll need to give up the Atlanta Falcons a second-round pick if they give him a contract extension. But if they let him walk, it will then be a third-rounder. Even though they have to give up a draft selection either way, the team's brass may want to keep the second-rounder and pursue someone like Tee Higgins in free agency.
Another potential roadblock to getting a deal done is that the Jags will probably prioritize giving outside linebacker Josh Allen an extension. To buy themselves more time, they could use the franchise tag. If Jacksonville uses the tag on Allen, the only route to keep Ridley will be striking a deal. Conversely, they could tag Ridley if they manage to get Allen under contract before the start of free agency in March.
The bottom line is that Calvin Ridley showed in 2023 that he still be a game-changer, and he could be even better in his second season post-suspension. If it was up to him, he would like to return, so it looks like the ball will be on the Jaguars' court.