The Jacksonville Jaguars turned heads when they traded for Calvin Ridley in 2022. At the time, they had a pair of playmakers at the position in Zay Jones and Christian Kirk, so it was a bit surprising to see the Jags add yet another weapon to an already stacked group. Then again, they couldn't pass up the chance to acquire a player of Ridley's caliber even if it came with a caveat.
When Jacksonville made the trade, the Alabama product was serving an indefinite suspension for betting on football games. On top of that, he wasn't particularly great in 2021, the last year he played before stepping away from football, so it's somewhat understandable why the Atlanta Falcons felt comfortable moving on from him. What wasn't reported at the time and Ridley later explained is that he was playing with a broken foot.
Moreover, Ridley was going through a lot at the time of his retirement. Overwhelmed, he believed that hanging up the cleats was the best course of action. With enough time to recover physically and mentally, and if reinstated, there was a reason to think the Florida native could bounce back in Jacksonville. And he did. Right off the bat, he showed he still had the speed that helped him get over 90 catches for 1,400 yards and nine receiving touchdowns in 2020, his last healthy season.
While Ridley had a few quiet games in 2023, he also flashed the talent that made him a mainstay of the Falcons' passing game. His ability to draw defensive pass interference flags in his favor was huge for the Jaguars' offense. Also, he finished the season strong, hailing in 76 receptions for 1,016 yards with eight touchdowns.
Now, Ridley is set to become a free agent in 2024. Re-signing him should be a free agent, but if they decide him walk, they can find his replacement in the first round of the draft, which is precisely what they do in this mock.