One of the Patriots’ best possible targets for a wide receiver may have to come via trade, and it wouldn’t be without risk. But there’s no greater potential for payoff than if the Pats acquired Falcons wideout Calvin Ridley.
The biggest questions concern the dynamic receiver’s current well-being, and whether he’d want the proverbial “change of scenery” in the first place. Atlanta has already picked up Ridley’s fifth year option for more than $11 million, but after playing five games, Ridley announced he was stepping away from football to work on his mental health. He hasn’t posted on his Instagram page since, but did retweet the NFL praising Rams receiver Cooper Kupp after the Super Bowl.
It’s unclear how Ridley feels at the current moment, as evidenced by recent comments from Falcons owner Arthur Blank. The latter has acknowledged that a clean slate may be best for Ridley at this point in his career, but also wouldn’t rule out the receiver staying with the Falcons.
“We love the young man,” Blank said, via the Falcons’ official website. “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.
“We’ve been totally supportive in every way that we can be, both emotionally and financially, in working with him as well as his agent. We’ll see, but I’m mostly concerned about him as a human being.”
Ridley’s mental health is certainly his No. 1 priority, so it’s important that he doesn’t return to football until he feels he’s ready, and that no one pressures him to do so too quickly. But once he does return, he’ll be an attractive trade chip for any receiver-needy team in the league, especially one that doesn’t want to break the bank for a top free agent and would rather move draft capital.
Bill Belichick has traded a high draft pick for a relatively affordable receiver in the past. He notably traded the Patriots’ 2017 first-round pick to the New Orleans Saints for Brandin Cooks. The big difference, though, is that Cooks only cost the Pats $1.5 million in salary and bonuses, as opposed to $11M.
Perhaps Ridley won’t cost a first-round pick. That would only make him more intriguing as a trade acquisition. It’s a situation worth monitoring for the Patriots, who could stand to keep surrounding young quarterback Mac Jones with dynamic weapons, preferably affordable ones. Ridley’s next team would be adding a player who is only two years removed from a 90-catch, nine-touchdown season.
Keep scrolling for more receiver options for the Pats in free agency.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 26: Calvin Ridley #18 of the Atlanta Falcons runs for a first down during the second quarter in the game against New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 26, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Calvin Ridley #18 of the Atlanta Falcons carries the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 03: Calvin Ridley #18 of the Atlanta Falcons runs with the ball after the catch against Kendall Fuller #29 of the Washington Football Team in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 13: Calvin Ridley #18 of the Atlanta Falcons makes a reception against Casey Hayward Jr. #26 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the second quarter at SoFi Stadium on December 13, 2020 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 25: Calvin Ridley #18 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates his two point conversion reception against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 25, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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