Wide receiver Calvin Ridley proved in his first season with the Jacksonville Jaguars that he still can play at a high level. He's now set to become a free agent. If the Jags let him walk, Gordon McGuiness of Pro Football Focus thinks Tee Higgins would be an adequate replacement.
McGuiness recently named one free agent each team should go after. He believes Jacksonville should pursue Higgins, noting that he thrives in reeling in contested chances, a skill the Jaguars would embrace.
"Styles win fights, but they also help round out passing attacks. And that’s exactly what Higgins would do in Jacksonville. Calvin Ridley saw 22 contested targets for the Jaguars in 2023, a facet in which Higgins has proven he can win as an NFL wideout. He caught 57.6% of his contested targets in 2022 and has proven himself to be a borderline No. 1 receiver when healthy."
Higgins, a second-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, has cemented himself as one of the top wide receivers in the league right now. However, he doesn't get nearly as much recognition as he deserves because he plays opposite Ja'Marr Chase. But despite Chase's presence, Higgins has managed to put up solid numbers, hauling in 257 receptions for 3,684 yards with 24 touchdowns the past four seasons.
Last season, rib and hamstring injuries forced the former Clemson Tiger to miss five games and limited his impact down the stretch. That said, he's shown he can take over games when he's healthy. This is precisely why the Jaguars could use him. It doesn't hurt that he caught passes from Trevor Lawrence when he was in college.
With Tyler Boyd, and Ja'Marr Chase expected to get extensions, it will be hard for Cincy to keep their wide receiver corps intact in 2024. Out of the bunch, Higgins might be the most likely candidate to walk. And if he does hit the open market, he will be in demand. He's currently No. 3 on PFF's list of top free agents.
Tee Higgins is an alternative for the Jaguars if they move on from Calvin Ridley
Tee Higgins would most definitely be a solid addition for the Jacksonville Jaguars but only if they move on from Calvin Ridley. If they extend him, they'll need to give the Atlanta Falcons a second-round pick as part of the deal they made to acquire him in 2022. However, it will only be a third if they let him leave in free agency. As Josh Norris pointed out recently, there's not much difference between third and second-round selections. If the Jags think Ridley is their guy, they should lock him up.
Last season was Ridley's first since 2021, when he suddenly hung up his cleats to focus on his mental health. He later revealed that he was also playing with a broken foot at the time, so it made sense for him to walk away and get better. The issue is that he earned an indefinite suspension for betting on football games during his retirement.
Jacksonville acquired Ridley's rights during the suspension and was reinstated last March. As soon as he was able to join the team, he showed he was fully healthy and still the same playmaker he was in Atlanta. Although he had a few quiet games, he finished 2023 with 1,016 and eight touchdowns on 76 catches. It's fair to assume that he can get much better with another year catching passes from Lawrence.
As good as Ridley was in 2023, not always being on the same wavelength as Lawrence prevented him from reaching his potential. By bringing him back, the Jaguars will ensure their star quarterback has a bonafide WR1 to throw to. But if they ultimately decide to go in a different direction, Higgins would be an enticing alternative to replace him.