The New England Patriots need a No. 1 wide receiver and they might just find one via trade.
According to Bill Barnwell of ESPN, the Patriots could pull off a swap with an NFC rival for a star receiver. Barnwell proposes a trade that would see the Patriots acquire Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley. In Barnwell’s proposal, New England would send edge rusher Chase Winovich and a second-round draft pick for the former 1,000-yard receiver.
“The other alternative for the Patriots would be Falcons wideout Calvin Ridley, who missed most of the season to address his mental health,” says Barnwell. “Ridley was a superstar during his last full season with Atlanta, averaging 2.5 yards per route run and 9.4 yards per target. The 27-year-old has reportedly discussed a fresh start with the Falcons, who might need to use him to help rebuild their defense. There’s an obvious fit between these two teams; a second-round pick and little-used edge rusher Chase Winovich should be enough to get Ridley to New England.”
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Ridley May Want to Move on From Falcons
Ridley sat out most of the 2021 season as he dealt with personal issues. But prior to that, the 27-year-old posted a ridiculous 90-catch, 1,374-yard, nine-touchdown campaign during the 2020 season. Ridley was named a Second-Team All-Pro selection in 2020.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ridley posted an 84.9 offensive grade in 2020, ranking 11th among all receivers.
Following the conclusion of the season, there was chatter that Ridley could be seeking a “fresh start.” Falcons owner Arthur Blank admitted as much during an interview in early February.
“We love the young man,” Blank told Falcons team reporter Scott Bair. “He has had a great history in Atlanta. We’d love him to stay in Atlanta. Whether or not he wants to do that — he may decide that he wants a fresh start someplace else. We don’t know that. I don’t know that. I don’t have information to indicate that, but we’ll see how that plays out.
Why Patriots Need True No. 1 Receiver
If New England only has to depart with Winovich — who posted zero sacks during the 2021 season — and a second-round pick for a star receiver in his prime, the Patriots should pull off that trade in a heartbeat.
As the Patriots look to clinch a playoff berth for the second consecutive season, their biggest roadblock is the lack of talent they have at the receiver position. While Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne were good enough to get it done this past season, the cracks started to show towards the end of the year.
Rookie QB Mac Jones’ performance declined towards the end of the season as the Patriots lost four of their final five games. Jones threw eight touchdowns versus seven interceptions while posting a quarterback rating of 75.8 or lower in three of those games.
The Patriots could very well go the route of signing a wide receiver in free agency to fix that problem. However, big names such as Chris Godwin and Davante Adams may very well just re-up with their current teams.
As far as the NFL draft is concerned, we know Bill Belichick’s well-documented history of coming up short on his first-round draft picks at the receiver position. One only needs to look at N’Keal Harry’s recent production — 57 career receptions for 598 yards and four touchdowns — and see that Belichick struggles at finding quality receivers in the draft.
So the best possible option emerges via the trade market. It’s clear that there’s the possibility that Ridley wants to move on from Atlanta. The Patriots should pounce on the opportunity and acquire a star receiver for Jones as he enters his sophomore campaign.
If the Patriots operate without a true No. 1 receiver for the second consecutive season, it could very well lead to a regression for Jones.