Multiple NFL insiders have broached the topic of a Ridley trade after the 27-year-old wideout missed much of the Atlanta Falcons‘ 2021 campaign while tending to undisclosed personal matters.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler predicted on January 18 the Falcons will ship Ridley to a “contender” this offseason due to his “robust market” and their more pressing priorities — financial or otherwise. Fowler forecasts Ridley fetching a conditional second-round pick that can become a first-rounder based on future playing time, naming the Patriots, Saints, and Dolphins as potential suitors.
“Atlanta is cash-strapped and needs pieces along the offensive line, so they could use the draft capital,” an NFC scout told Fowler.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported on January 15 that “a fresh start could be in the cards” for Ridley, and “teams around the league believe he’s going to be made available at some point.”
“My education prediction right now — this is a prediction, it’s not a report — is that Calvin Ridley is elsewhere for the 2022 regular season,” Garafolo said.
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As It All Relates to Dallas …
Swirling rumors suggest that Cooper, he of the $100 million contract and relatively disappointing production, might be “gone” in the months ahead as the Cowboys regroup from their bitter loss in the NFC Wild Card game. Such speculation was fueled further by club owner Jerry Jones, who took a critical stance against the four-time Pro Bowler during a January 21 radio interview.
“Amari Cooper should take half the field with him when he runs a route…a whole bunch of that defense ought to have to honor Cooper,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan, via The Athletic. “He ought to be able to catch it in the middle when they’re going with him. Others do. You throw to people that are covered all the time.”
Ridley — a 2020 second-team All-Pro who’s tallied 3,342 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns across 49 career games — would represent a ready-made replacement for Cooper or fellow Dallas starting WR Michael Gallup, a pending unrestricted free agent.
The No. 26 overall selection of the 2018 draft, Ridley carries an $11.116 million salary-cap figure for 2022, the final year of his rookie contract, per Spotrac.
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Pats Not in the Market?
Although the Patriots are perpetually needy at the position, Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed “wouldn’t count on” New England pulling off a trade for Ridley despite it being a “logical topic of discussion.”
Expect Bill Belichick and company to aim lower, targeting the bargain bin of March free agency.
“The Patriots have limited cap space this offseason, and Ridley is on the books for $11.1 million. That’s a bargain for a wide receiver of Ridley’s caliber, but the talented wideout still might be too pricey for New England to acquire if they also want to fix their aging defense — a chief priority this offseason,” Kyed wrote on January 21.
“A better way to acquire more pass-catching talent might be through the draft or even just signing a lower-level free agent like slot receiver Braxton Berrios, whom the Pats originally selected in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft and broke out in 2021 with the New York Jets. Over the final seven weeks of the 2021 season, Berrios ranked sixth among qualified wide receivers with an 85.8 receiving grade.”