One of the biggest decisions the Jacksonville Jaguars will have to make in the offseason is whether they will re-sign wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who's scheduled to become a free agent. Besides having to allocate a significant amount of space to his potential contract, the Jags need to give the Atlanta Falcons a second-round pick as part of the trade they made to acquire him in 2022. If they let him leave, it will then be a third.
Either way, the Jags will need to give up a selection, which makes Josh Norris of Underdog Fantasy argue that they should bring the receiver back. During a recent exchange with Hayden Winks, Norris said that Jacksonville should give Ridley an extension, noting that general manager Trent Baalke might want to put together the best possible team. Otherwise, he could be on the hot seat if Jacksonville misses the playoffs again.
"My point here with the Jacksonville Jaguars is the second and third-rounder, it's just 32 picks difference, right? It's just 32 picks difference, so it's not like, oh, man, losing the second-rounder.' Well, either you're gonna lose the third-rounder," Norris said. "To me, that is not the big sticking point here. It's more the contract, right? It's the contract, to me, to win next season. This team in a perfect world would spend the number 17 overall pick on a true x outside wide receiver."
"Then have Calvin Ridley as your motion guy, your movement guy. Have Christian Kirk as your slot guy, and then have 118-catch Evan Engram out of nowhere as your tight end. Plus, this team did a bunch of cool two and even three tight-end sets at this point. To me, that would be the best-case scenario for this offense to have success next year. And you can get there by letting Cam Robinson go, and hopefully having Walker Little play left tackle even though he's been injured quite a bit of times," Norris said.
Norris then adds that keeping Ridley is a much better option than going after an unknown commodity in free either agency or the draft. Conversely, Winks opines that the Jaguars have too many holes and they'd be better off using that second-round pick to address one of their more pressing needs. He also argues that giving Ridley a new deal won't get them closer to the Super Bowl.
Ridley, a second-round pick in the 2018 draft, hauled in 217 receptions for 2,061 yards with 26 touchdowns in his first three seasons. However, he stepped away in 2021, citing his mental health as the main reason. He later revealed that he was playing through a broken leg. During his retirement, Ridley was suspended indefinitely for placing bets on NFL games.
During his suspension, the Jaguars traded for Ridley. He was reinstated last March and wasted no time joining the team. Throughout the offseason, he showed he was still the playmaker he was early in his career. Although he was a non-factor at times, he routinely helped the Jags move the chains by drawing pass interference calls in his favor. He led Jacksonville in receiving yards with 1,006. His eight touchdowns were also a team-best, while his 76 receptions ranked second. Here's the whole exchange if you want to give it a look.
The Jaguars can keep Calvin Ridley and address most of their needs in one offseason
Norris is right that there's not much difference between giving up a second or a third-round pick, as long as you can find a contributor. Helping lessen the impact of losing a second-rounder is that the Jaguars are set to get a compensatory selection in the third after letting right tackle Jawaan Taylor walk in free agency last year. Norris also nailed it when he said that Trent Baalke is under pressure to deliver after an underwhelming offseason in 2023.
Given that Baalke traded for Calvin Ridley, he might feel inclined to give him an extension. But even if the Jaguars bring him back, the Jaguars could still use help at receiver, especially if they move on from Zay Jones, who could be a cap casualty. The issue with investing so many resources in the wide receiver position is that it could make it more challenging to address other needs, such as the interior offensive line, or the pass rush rotation.
Then again, the Jaguars don't have to use a premium pick to bolster their pass rush or fortify their trenches, and if they can re-sign Ridley and add yet another weapon to their arsenal next season, their offense could be one of the best in the league.