All-Pro Wideout With Spotty Background May Be ‘Missing Piece’ for Browns

Calvin Ridley, Jaguars

Getty Wide receiver Calvin Ridley of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Cleveland Browns have a few offensive positions of legitimate concern to address in the coming weeks, particularly that of wide receiver.

The franchise probably won’t be in a position to spend huge on a player who is at the level of WR1 Amari Cooper, who has been borderline elite in his first two years in Cleveland and earned a Pro Bowl nod for his work in 2023. Most pundit speculation has revolved around trying to find an option on free agency who is affordable but has shown flashes of a high ceiling.

Kenny Roda of News-Talk 1480 WHBC spoke with Dave Bacon of Sports 4 CLE on Wednesday, February 14, about the prospect of pursuing former Atlanta Falcons and current Jacksonville Jaguars wideout Calvin Ridley. Ridley will hit free agency in March.

“I would consider it because it shouldn’t cost you too much, right? If you’re looking for something as a bargain, somebody to take a swing on — you might miss, but if you connect you hit a double, a triple, a home run,” Roda told Bacon. “Considering how much you need another wide receiver on this team, [the Browns should] do their due diligence, check into where he’s at mentally, physically. … It’s somebody definitely to kick the tires on.”


Calvin Ridley Bounced Back With 2nd Career Season of 1,000-Plus Receiving Yards in 2023

Calvin Ridley, Jaguars

GettyWide receiver Calvin Ridley of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Irie Harris of Cleveland.com on Thursday dubbed Ridley the potential “missing piece” for Cleveland’s offense.

“Among [wide receivers] headed for free agency is wide receiver Calvin Ridley, a solid [pass-catcher] coming off his second career season of 1,000 yards or more,” Harris wrote. “Maybe he could be the missing piece in Cleveland’s receiving unit.”

Ridley sat out the entirety of the 2022 campaign due to violating the NFL’s gambling rules. He also played only five games the year prior, stepping away for reasons he described as a collective refocusing on his mental health.

That string of events led the Falcons to trade Ridley to the Jaguars, despite the receiver producing 1,374 yards and 9 TDs on 90 catches in 2020, per Pro Football Reference. His performance that year earned him second-team All-Pro honors. Ridley returned close to that form in 2023 with the Jaguars, hauling in 76 receptions for 1,016 yards and 8 scores.


Calvin Ridley May Come to Cleveland Browns, But He Won’t Come Cheap

Calvin Ridley

GettyJacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley.

Roda suggested to Bacon on Wednesday that part of the reason Ridley is worth a flier is that he shouldn’t be too expensive. That, however, may not be entirely accurate.

A former first-round pick, Ridley signed a four-year rookie contract worth nearly $11 million. As a first-rounder the Falcons exercised their right on a fifth-year team option for roughly $11 million on its own.

Ridley would have earned that money in 2022, but instead earned nothing due to his year-long suspension from the NFL. He returned and assumed that salary last season in Jacksonville, though the talented receiver still missed out on a full season of pay during his prime. Ridley will head into his age-29 season in 2024 and will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time, looking to recoup some of the value he lost by way of his punishment.

Spotrac projects Ridley’s market value at $17 million annually over a new four-year contract ($62 million in total). Given his play in 2023 and the increased value of the receiver position across the NFL in recent years due to rule changes and essentially league-wide shifts in offensive philosophy, Ridley is going to have significant negotiating leverage.

The Browns may well be able to afford a contract in that range, particularly if they rework the contracts of Cooper and quarterback Deshaun Watson to lower their salary cap hits in 2024. Cooper is set to cost nearly $24 million against the cap, while Watson will count nearly $64 million next season.

Cleveland could also use bonus structures to lower the cap hit of a new signing like Ridley, which makes him a feasible add for the Browns. To call him inexpensive, however, is likely to prove inaccurate.

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