Jaguars should target this Chicago WR in free agency if they let Calvin Ridley walk

• Calvin Ridley is set to become a free agent

• The Jaguars may or may not re-sign him

• Darnell Mooney could be a potential replacement

Oct 1, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) runs the ball
Oct 1, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) runs the ball / Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Re-signing wide receiver Calvin Ridley will be one of the top decisions (while not the most important) decisions the Jacksonville Jaguars will need to make in the offseason. General manager Trent Baalke, for one, spoke effusively of Ridley, noting that he would like to bring him back. That's reassuring but it's not a given the Jags will give him an extension in the offseason. In case they let him hit the market, they should then consider going after Darnell Mooney in free agency to replace him.

Mooney is coming off an underwhelming campaign, posting 31 catches for 414 yards with one touchdown, all career lows. His production has progressively decreased since crossing the 1,000 yark-mark and reaching the end zone eight times. Then again, there's a reason to believe that a lack of consistency at the quarterback position, an ankle injury, and an inadequate offensive scheme are responsible for the dip.

It's fair to assume that Mooney, a second-round pick by the Chicago Bears in 2020, can become his dynamic self once again if he catches passes from an established quarterback, let's say, Trevor Lawrence. The Tulane product stated after the conclusion of 2023 that he would like to remain in the Windy City. On the flip side, he could benefit from a fresh start somewhere else, maybe Jacksonville.

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus has spoken highly of Mooney, saying he's done everything he's been asked. However, they haven't yet gotten to the negotiation table. The one thing that could incentivize Chicago to re-sign him is that they have no other viable options in the receiving game. If they want to ensure Justin Fields or whoever they draft in the first round is in a position to succeed, they'll want him to have weapons.

The Jaguars, for their part, will have to decide whether to re-sign Ridley, who hauled in 76 receptions for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns, both team-highs, last year. If they give him an extension, they'll need to give the Atlanta Falcons a second-round pick as part of the trade they made in 2022 to acquire him. But if they let him walk, it will only be a third-rounder.

Darnell Mooney gives the Jacksonville Jaguars an option to replace Calvin Ridley

Just recently, Alex Key of Bleacher Report dubbed Darnell Mooney a player who could blow up with a new team in 2024. The fact that his stock isn't particularly high heading into free agency makes him a low-risk, high-reward candidate to replace Ridley.

On the the other hand, the Jaguars could make an aggressive effort to re-sign Ridley, or at least bring him back. If they manage to agree to an extension with outside linebacker Josh Allen before free agency, they could then use the franchise tag on Ridley. Perhaps the decision will come down to how much they want to keep that second-rounder.

There's no doubt Calvin Ridley is a game-changer who should get better after nearly not playing football for more than a year. That said, Darnell Mooney would be a more adequate replacement if the Jacksonville Jaguars ultimately let Ridley hit the open market.

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