Losing Calvin Ridley may be the best for the Jaguars in the long run

• The Jaguars are in a position to withstand the departure of Calvin Ridley.

Jan 7, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA;  Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0)
Jan 7, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) / Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars come out of free agency with a promising haul. But despite all the upgrades they made to the roster, they weren't able to re-sign wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who crossed enemy lines to join the Tenessee Titans. While losing Ridley (to a division foe, no less) hurts, the Jags may be better off without him in the long run.

When the Jags traded for Ridley in 2022, they agreed to give the Atlanta Falcons their second-rounder if they re-signed him before the new league year. They didn't, so they kept the pick. They did have to give up their third but that's because he met playing conditions last year. Jacksonville received a compensatory third-round selection in this year's draft, so it lessen the hit.

Getting to keep their second-rounder in 2024, the Jags have a pick in each of the first three rounds of the draft. After bolstering several position groups, including the offensive line, in free agency, the team's brass can address their biggest remaining needs in the draft.

Moreover, the money the Jags would've used on Ridley went toward defensive end Arik Armstead. Had they resigned Ridley, they might not have been able to upgrade the interior defensive line. Granted, they still need to find Calvin Ridley's replacement. But they're not in a terrible spot even though things didn't play out the way they originally wanted.

In the end, the Jaguars got a productive season out of Ridley, who hauled in 76 receptions for 1,016 yards with eight touchdowns in 2023. Rightfully, they wanted to bring him back but it was going to be tough without having to give up their second-rounder.

Jacksonville could've used the franchise tag on Ridley but they had already tagged outside linebacker Josh Allen, so their only path — without having to give up their second-rounder — was to let Ridley hit the open market and re-sign him once he did. For a hot minute, it looked like he was going to return but the Titans outbid them at the last minute, giving him a four-year deal worth $92 million with $50 million. No player was going to pass up on that offer.

What's next for the Jaguars after losing Calvin Ridley?

The Jaguars need to replenish their wide receiver corps despite the fact that they signed Gabe Davis in free agency. Zay Jones remains on the roster but he's set to hit the open market next year. On top of that, it wouldn't hurt to add depth. Parker Washington and Tim Jones are serviceable but not much else. At No. 17, Jacksonville could be in a position to take Brian Thomas Jr., Rome Odunze, or Keon Coleman. Their cornerback room could also use help.

Tyson Campbell is scheduled to become a free agent in 2024. But even if the Jags bring him back, they would still have room for another cornerback. This year's class is stacked at the position. They could go after Nate Wiggins, Terrion Arnold, or Cooper DeJean in the first round or Kamari Lassiter in the second. Last, but not least, the Jaguars must round out their pass rush rotation.

Josh Allen and Travon Walker combined for 27.5 sacks last season but they need a No. 3 rusher who could step in from time to time and let them catch their breath. K'Lavon Chaission logged two sacks last year but he signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. The Jags could go after Dallas Turner or Chop Robinson at No. 17, but if they want to address other positions first, they could wait until the second or third round.

The truth is that the Jacksonville Jaguars would've rather kept Calvin Ridley. They didn't, but that doesn't mean all is lost. They have their work cut out in the upcoming months, but they can overcome his departure.

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