It sometimes takes a bit of time to really assess a trade in the NFL. However, early signs point to the Jacksonville Jaguars hitting it out of the ballpark when they acquired wide receiver Calvin Ridley from the Atlanta Falcons last year. Although there are many reasons the arrival of Ridley will be huge in Jacksonville, Arif Hasan of Pro Football Network believes the Falcons currently come out ahead.
Hasan took a deep look at the winners and losers of the Ridley trade and thinks Atlanta has the early edge because they didn't know when he would be reinstated from the suspension he got for betting in NFL games but will get something in return.
The Jags traded for Ridley when his stock was at its slowest but the trade is structured in a way that gives the Falcons a bigger return the more Ridley succeeds in 2023. From the start, Atlanta was guaranteed a fifth-round pick this year but they would get a conditional fourth in 2024 that can turn in a third or second if certain conditions are met.
If Ridley remains on the roster next season, it's a fourth but if he reaches certain conditions, it will then be a third. Last, the selection will become a second-rounder if the Jaguars give Ridley a contract extension. The Jaguars won't probably mind parting ways with a pick in Round 2 if Ridley becomes the player he was in 2020 when he caught 90 receptions for 1,374 yards with nine receiving touchdowns. However, Hasan thinks the Falcons are the early winners of the trade.
"The Falcons were smart to design the trade the way they did. The only way they can lose is if Ridley performs at that level for the next several years. In which case, he probably should have been traded for a first-round pick. But in any other case, Atlanta seemingly comes out ahead. "
Hasan goes on to say that Zay Jones "probably comes out of this as a loser", noting that Ridley will eat up some of his targets next seasons. Conversely, Jones will get more favorable matchups because Ridley will draw coverage away from him, and that's something that wasn't brought up when discussing Ridley's potential impact on the Jacksonville offense.
Similarly, Ridley's ability to stretch the field will allow Christian Kirk to line up in the slot, where he's at his best, more often. Last but not least, opposing defenses won't be able to frequently stack up the box against the Jags due to Ridley's ability to stretch the field.
The Jaguars are winner of the Calvin Ridley trade in many ways
Something that Hasan didn't take into account when assessing the winners and losers of the trade is that the Falcons have yet to use the pick the Jaguars will give them next year. For the sake of argument, let's say Jacksonville extends the Ridley and Atlanta gets a second-rounder. They don't know what kind of player they'll select.
The Jags know firsthand that stockpiling early-round selections doesn't guarantee success. Back when they traded cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams in 2019. They got two first-round picks and one in the fourth round but they came out with only one good player, running back Travis Etienne, whom they selected with the second of the two first-rounders. They used the first one on edge rusher K'Lavon Chaisson, who's potentially entering training camp on the roster bubble three years after his selection.
With the 2021 fourth-round pick, the Jags selected outside linebacker Jordan Smith, who's been a non-factor over the last two seasons. Just like Chaisson, Smith might be on the fringe ahead of the 2023 season. The point is that the Falcons got pretty good assets as part of the Ridley trade but if they can't take advantage of them, they can't be declared winners, simple as that.
So far, signs are pointing toward Ridley joining the upper echelon of NFL receivers again and there's a scenario in which he thrives and the Falcons find a difference-maker with the pick they get from Jacksonville. Either way, it's a bit premature to call the Jaguars the losers of the trade.