The Falcons have been without Calvin Ridley‘s services since Week 9 when the All-Pro receiver announced he would be stepping away from football to focus on his mental well-being. Arthur Smith, who has faced a majority of the questioning regarding the situation, has given no further updates since the initial news broke, using the same response for months — there would be no update on Ridley’s status, nor would he speculate on a potential return.
However, on the Dukes and Bell show recently, Steve Wyche told the hosts that he thinks Ridley’s future with the Falcons is in jeopardy; both parties have been silent, which could mean both sides are looking for a fresh start.
Most recently, in their end-of-season press conference, Terry Fontenot and Smith gave vague responses to questions regarding Ridley’s current or future status. Specifically, Fontenot elegantly avoided answering when he would start thinking about life without Ridley. The two men gave no speculation on the matter but reaffirmed their support for Ridley.
This situation will bleed deeper and deeper into the offseason, with the potential of affecting the start of the 2022 season. It is encouraging to see the regime fully support their players; it seems they genuinely care for the people inside the building. However, if I had to take away something from the presser, it is that Fontenot and Smith aren’t confident in what the future holds with Ridley.
This begs the question of whether or not trading Ridley is a realistic outcome, which at this point, we can only assume to be a possibility. Similar to the Julio Jones debacle, this situation could quickly reach a resolution behind the scenes. So, where are some top landing spots for Calvin Ridley? These aren’t the best scenarios for the Falcons, rather the best places for Ridley to start fresh that could work out for the team as well — Browns, Colts, 49ers, Raiders, Jaguars, Bears, Dolphins, Eagles, and Patriots.
With Jarvis Landry being a potential cap casualty, the Browns could be a great landing spot for Ridley since they lack a consistent threat on the boundary — effectively replacing Odell Beckham Jr. Cleveland has been known to make blockbuster trades, so this could be a possibility.
The Colts have a budding receiving core with Michael Pittman, Zach Pascal, and Parris Campbell; however, T.Y. Hilton is certainly on the way out, and Ridley could provide balance on the boundary opposite Pittman. Chris Ballard might be reluctant to give up draft capital after trading for Carson Wentz, but the offense undoubtedly needs another downfield threat.
The 49ers are projected to be over the 2022 salary cap, but they could certainly make it work if John Lynch wanted to. Trey Lance throwing to Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Calvin Ridley has to intrigue Kyle Shanahan. San Francisco lacks the type of receiver that Ridley is, so it could really round out their receiving core.
The Raiders are in desperate need of a boundary threat next to Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, and Bryan Edwards. Las Vegas will have a ton of cap space to use this offseason, and getting Derek Carr another weapon should be a priority on Mike Mayock‘s offseason to-do list.
The Jaguars wouldn’t be a terribly fun destination for Ridley, but they could certainly give him a lucrative extension with over $50 million to spend this offseason. Trevor Lawrence is an attractive piece that Jacksonville can use to convince Ridley to give the rebuild a chance.
The Patriots need a wide receiver to pair with Mac Jones, and nobody likes to trade for written-off players like Bill Belichick. Jones needs a receiver who can consistently win on the outside, and Ridley can be just that.
The Bears have a long road ahead of them as they’re set to hire a general manager and head coach, but they absolutely need to get weapons for Justin Fields. Four receivers are set to hit free agency, including Allen Robinson; it would be a home run for the new general manager to pair Ridley with Fields.
The Dolphins may not make a ton of sense because they have a decent receiving core and a bottom-five offensive line, but four of their wideouts are hitting free agency, and Jaylen Waddle could use someone on the boundary to take attention away from him in the slot. Growing up close to Miami could also interest Ridley.
The Eagles are the best option for Ridley, in my opinion. Howie Roseman has shown a willingness to pull the trigger on big-time trades, and Jalen Hurts could use another receiver besides DeVonta Smith. Loaded with draft capital, a deal with Philadelphia could provide the maximum benefit for both parties — Ridley and the Falcons.
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