The Atlanta Falcons have traded wide receiver Calvin Ridley to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a complicated return that will eventually include a pair of future draft selections, but ones that are largely incentive-based, according to multiple reports. Ridley was suspended indefinitely through at least the conclusion of the 2022 campaign for a gambling infraction. The Jaguars are hoping Ridley can recapture the form and production that once made him a dominant boundary target.
If Ridley gets reinstated by a certain date, the Falcons will receive a fifth-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. Otherwise, Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke will part with a 2023 sixth-round selection instead. If Ridley makes the Jaguars’ roster in 2024, the Falcons will receive an additional 2024 fourth-round selection that’s also conditional. If Ridley reaches certain play-time milestones, that selection upgrades into a third-round pick. If the Jaguars ultimately sign Ridley to a long-term extension, it becomes a 2024 second-round pick. Ridley can apply for reinstatement no sooner than Feb. 15, 2023.
Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot had previously triggered the fifth-year option on Ridley’s rookie contract for the 2022 campaign. Ridley’s contract tolled from 2022 to 2023 following his year-long suspension. The Jaguars will now inherit Ridley’s fully-guaranteed salary of $11.1 million for the 2023 campaign. The Jaguars do not acquire any cap or cash hit for the current season as a result of this deal.
Upon his return, barring another surprise, Ridley will join a revamped receiver room in Jacksonville that also features Christian Kirk. Kirk is currently signed through the 2025 campaign and is enjoying a fruitful season. Kirk has recorded 35 receptions for 498 yards and four touchdowns through eight contests. Kirk is on pace to record the first 1,000-yard campaign of his career. Together they’ll form an impressive supporting cast in Jacksonville that also includes emerging dual-threat running back Travis Etienne.
This deal is all about surrounding sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence with more weapons as he continues his ascension to franchise quarterback. Lawrence will appreciate an opportunity to target difference-makers such as Ridley, Etienne, and Kirk. All parties involved should hit their prime just as the Jaguars are ready to legitimately compete for a postseason berth.
Ridley appeared in just five regular-season contests in 2021 before stepping away due to off-field struggles. Ridley cited mental health difficulties. Ridley last played a full season in 2020 where his elite potential was on full display. Ridley accumulated 90 receptions for 1,374 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Ridley averaged a career-high 15.3 yards per reception. It was an appropriate follow-up to rookie and sophomore campaigns that saw Ridley score 17 touchdowns. Ridley is still just 27 years of age.
Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson will be the happiest man in Duval. Pederson is an offensive-minded leader that’s begun building the Jaguars’ offense in his vision. Acquiring Ridley will eventually provide Pederson with another high-level weapon to utilize in his evolving offense. The sky’s the limit for the future Jaguars.
Ridley was once viewed as one of the league’s most talented young pass-catchers. A boneheaded decision momentarily derailed his once-promising career. The Jaguars are affording Calvin Ridley an opportunity to meet the expectations he once looked sure to reach.