Jaguars catch flak for letting Calvin Ridley walk despite obvious benefits

• B/R thinks the Jaguars made a mistake when they let WR Calvin Ridley walk in free agency.
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) runs after a catch during Tennessee Titans practice at Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, May 29, 2024.
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) runs after a catch during Tennessee Titans practice at Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, May 29, 2024. / Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA

The Jacksonville Jaguars were interested in re-signing Calvin Ridley in free agency but they didn't want to go over a certain amount. The Tennesse Titans then swooped in and signed him to a four-year deal worth $92 million. The Jags could've matched their offer but opted not to. While they've made several moves to replace Ridley, Alex Kay of Bleacher Report thinks they will eventually come to regret letting him leave.

Kay drew up a list of decisions teams will regret within the next three years and included Jacksonville not making a bigger effort to keep Ridley. He argues that the former Alabama standout was Trevor Lawrence's more reliable target in a season in which the offense lacked weapons. Without him, it will be harder for the star quarterback to bounce back in 2024.

"A big reason for Lawrence's regression was a lack of weapons surrounding him. Without Ridley remaining in the picture, it will be even tougher for Lawrence and the Jags to take a leap in 2024 following back-to-back 9-8 seasons."

Kay goes on to say that the Jaguars didn't correctly replace Ridley in the offseason.

"Jacksonville did attempt to find a replacement for Ridley on the open market but only came away with polarizing playmaker Gabe Davis. Although Davis has racked up 27 touchdowns over his first four NFL seasons, he's been a boom-or-bust contributor who hasn't gone over 836 yards or 48 catches in any individual campaign."

For the sake of clarity, Gabe Davis wasn't Ridley's replacement. The expectation is that the two were going to play alongside each other next season. In fact, it looked like Ridley was going to return before Tennesseee stepped in. Kay doesn't go into detail about the addition of Brian Thomas Jr. in this past draft but says that it's hard to envision the Jacksonville offense taking a step forward if he doesn't live up to the hype.

Thomas was the 23rd overall pick in this year's draft. The Jags originally held the 17th overall selection but traded spots with the Minnesota Vikings and got two fourth-round picks (one this year, and one in 2025), and a third-rounder next year. On the other hand, the front office signed Gabe Davis to a three-year deal worth $39 million in free agency.

A fourth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2020, Davis has never had more than 48 grabs in the offseason but has averaged 16.7 yards per reception throughout his career. His ability to stretch the offense will come in handy in Jacksonville.

Add the arrival of Thomas, who's made a strong impression during offseason activities, and it's fair to say that the Jaguars' offense is in much better shape than it was when Ridley was around.

Letting Calvin Ridley walk was the best course of action for the Jaguars

When the Jacksonville Jaguars traded for Calvin Ridley in 2022, they agreed to give the Atlanta Falcons a second-round selection in 2024 if they gave him a contract extension before free agency began. Because they applied the franchise tag on outside linebacker Josh Allen, they couldn't use it on Ridley. They didn't want to give up the second-rounder, which is why he hit the open market.

In that regard, the Jaguars and general manager Trent Baalke do deserve criticism for their subpar planning ahead of free agency. But other than that, they navigated the situation well.

It's true that Brian Thomas Jr. is an unproven commodity heading into the regular season but he's done enough in the offseason to make you think he'll have a positive impact for the Jaguars in 2024. Granted, Calvin Ridley was their leading receiver last year, registering 1,016 yards with eight touchdowns on 76 receptions but he was also responsible for several puzzling drops.

Imagine Ridley had caught five of those drops, Trevor Lawrence's 2023 statline would've looked much better. The Thomas/Davis tandem cannot do much worse.

It's also worth noting that by losing Ridley to the division rival Titans, they were able to land defensive end Arik Armstead. The interior defensive front was one of the team's biggest needs in the offseason and signing Armstead took care of it.

When you add the draft picks, the savings, and the arrival of Armstead, you could argue that the Jaguars vastly benefited from not outbidding Tennessee for his services.

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