Lions Linked to Projected $64 Million Star, Previously Controversial WR

Dan Campbell Calvin Ridley

Getty CBS Sports' Garrett Podell connected the Detroit Lions to pending free agent wide receiver Calvin Ridley.

Few will bat an eye if the Detroit Lions elect to re-sign veteran wide receiver Josh Reynolds. But the possibility to sign a potential upgrade such as pending free agent Calvin Ridley is also on the table.

CBS Sports’ Garrett Podell named the Lions one of three potential landing spots for Ridley on February 21.

“Calvin Ridley had an uncomplicated season on the field in 2023, his first year back after a gambling suspension that wiped away his 2022 campaign,” Podell wrote. “He led Jacksonville in receiving yards (1,016) and receiving touchdowns (eight), a solid return to NFL action.

“The Detroit Lions fresh off a run to the NFC title game have the cap space to make Ridley a competitive offer as well as entice him with the ability to play for a legit contender.”

Spotrac projected Ridley to be worth about $68 million on a 4-year contract this offseason. That would pay him an average of $17 million per season.

The Lions possess $48 million in cap space.

As Podell noted, Ridley had a great bounce back season in 2023. However, a clause in the trade that sent Ridley from the Atlanta Falcons to the Jacksonville Jaguars could prevent the receiver from returning to Jacksonville.

“If the Jaguars re-sign Ridley, the conditional third-round pick they owe the Atlanta Falcons jumps to a second-round pick,” Podell added. “Jacksonville could clearly use him alongside Christian Kirk and Evan Engram, but given that price tag, he could easily get scooped up by another team.”

Connecting Ridley to the Lions is notable for a couple reasons.

First, Ridley could make the No. 2-ranked Lions passing offense even more dynamic. But he would also bring a controversial gambling past that’s all too familiar to the Lions.

What Calvin Ridley Would Bring for Lions

The 29-year-old wide receiver has missed 29 of his team’s past 51 games. But Ridley has produced whenever he’s been on the field throughout his career.

He began in the NFL as a first-round pick for the Falcons in 2018. As a rookie playing opposite All-Pro receiver Julio Jones, Ridley posted 64 catches for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Ridley has played more than 12 games in four NFL seasons. He’s recorded at least 60 receptions, 800 yards and 7 touchdowns in all four of those campaigns.

His best statistical season came in 2020 when he had 90 catches for 1,374 yards and 9 touchdowns. Ridley shared in a column on The Players’ Tribune that he reached those 2020 totals while playing with a broken foot.

Ridley averaged more than 15 yards per catch in 2020. But for most of his career, he’s been more of a chain-moving wideout as opposed to deep-threat. With 36 touchdowns in 66 games, he’s also been a lethal red zone target.

Adding Ridley to a receiving corps that already contains All-Pro Amon-Ra St. Brown and developing deep threat Jameson Williams, along with standout pass catchers, tight end Sam LaPorta and running back Jahmyr Gibbs, could give the Lions the best aerial attack in the league.

Ridley’s 2022 Gambling Suspension

In his The Players’ Tribune column, Ridley detailed that his broken foot in 2020 began him down a dark path that ended in a year-long NFL suspension.

The league indefinitely suspended Ridley for betting on NFL games during the 2021 season. He was reinstated after completely missing the entire 2022 season.

Ridley returned to being a star in 2023, so his gambling past appears to be behind him. But the media and fans could bring it up again if he signed in Detroit.

On April 21, 2023, the NFL suspended five more players for gambling policy violations. Four of those players were from the Lions. Three of them were Lions wideouts, most notable of which was Williams.

Social media might have a field day with Ridley and Williams in the same wide receiver room.

To Williams’ credit, like Ridley, Williams returned from his suspension to be a valuable contributor in 2023. The NFL initially suspended Williams for six games. The league then reduced his punished to four contests.

Before considering Ridley a target, the Lions will have to answer whether they want multiple receivers on their roster with a gambling past. Detroit released the other two receivers, Quintez Cephus and Stanley Berryhill, who received gambling suspensions last year.

Likewise, Ridley may ask himself a similar question. Will he consider the Lions in free agency if signing in Detroit brings up his past mistake?

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