Atlanta Falcons’ wide receiver Calvin Ridley has been the subject of much criticism this year. His decision to step away from his team in the middle of the season was admirable, but not exempt from the criticism of NFL “fans.” Even when he was playing, Ridley underwhelmed. After finishing tied for fifth in the NFL in receiving yards and reaching the end zone nine times in 2020, Ridley posted just 281 receiving yards and two touchdowns in five games played in 2021.
After Ridley took leave from the Falcons, players like Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Kyle Pitts stepped up in his stead. Despite having no proven, big-name pass-catchers, the Falcons’ offense was by no means good, but showed flashes of potential, if not much in part due to the emergence of former first-round draft pick and future Hall of Famer. That’s allegedly all that Falcons’ GM Terry Fontenot had to see in order to put Ridley on the chopping block.
Obviously, we should take these words with a grain of salt. While trade rumors revolving around big-name players usually tend to be rooted in truth, Fontenot has given no indication of his willingness to ship Ridley away. In fact, he’s publicly said the opposite. Just five days ago, he claimed he was “not ready to give up” on Ridley for 2022, but isn’t that what all GMs say right before they send their star guys across the country for draft capital? Plus, it’s fun to speculate, so even though I have no reason to suspect Fontenot is lying, I’m still going to talk about the best landing spots for Ridley.
Las Vegas Raiders
Look at what Rich Bisaccia and Derek Carr were able to do this season. They reached the playoffs with a bottom-10 defense in terms of points allowed and an offense that finished top-12 in the NFL in yards per game all while having just one receiver record over 700 receiving yards. Even through a DUI tragedy cost a young woman her life, allegedly instigated by former Raiders’ receiver Henry Ruggs, the Raiders persevered without their top passing option. While I fully expect Darren Waller to bounce back from his subpar 2021 campaign next year, adding an outside threat that works best in the intermediate-to-deep range to pair with Hunter Renfrow, who works best on short routes, could only mean good things for the Raiders.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Depending on who you ask, Tom Brady is currently either the sure-fire MVP who doesn’t need Bill Belichick, let alone a few good receivers in order to play championship-level football, or a total hack who’s reliant on the talent around him in order to maintain his high-level play. Who’s correct? I won’t weigh in on the matter. I’ll leave that to the experts in the Twitter comment section. What we do know is that Antonio Brown is gone, Chris Godwin is an impending free agent coming back from a torn ACL, and in the one game Brady played this season without Godwin or Mike Evans, Brady completed just 60 percent of his passes for 232 yards and one touchdown against a lowly Carolina Panthers’ defense. Those are good numbers, but not the numbers you’d expect the MVP frontrunner to put up.
As Brady continues to get older, he’s bound to regress at some point. When he does, he’s going to need all the help he can get and if the Bucs don’t manage to keep Godwin around next year, trading for Ridley could be the next best option.
Something that has proven time and time again to help with mental health is having a strong support system to help you through your lowest moments. Miami has a lot of good talent at wide receiver already with DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, and Will Fuller (if he ever gets healthy), but Ridley has the potential to be the best of them all. Seeing as how Ridley’s hometown of Coconut Creek is less than an hour away from South Beach, it would make sense that Ridley would want to be as close to his family and friends as possible.
While Ridley might not be the best fit for the Dolphins, I doubt they’d hesitate to grab the former first-round pick if given the opportunity. Tua Tagovailoa needs all the help he can get after all.
3) Green Bay Packers
Every time the Packers lose in the NFC Championship, there’s a three-to-four month period where all we hear from Packers’ fans is “We need to get Aaron Rodgers another great receiver to pair with Davante Adams.” The entire cheesehead fandom emerges from their slumbers in order to bash GM Brian Gutekunst for his reluctance in meeting this singular demand. However, with Rodgers likely skipping town next season for greener pastures, and Adams sure to follow suit, the need for a great outside threat is more dire than ever.
Jordan Love has not inspired hope that he can carry the Packers’ franchise to great heights in his six career games played and lone game started. He’s thrown two touchdowns to three interceptions, completed less than 60 percent of his passes, and posted a passer rating of 68.7. Now imagine how bad those numbers might look if he didn’t have Adams to throw to 14 times a game. Even with Adams, it’s unlikely the Packers will be able to maintain the same level of dominance we’ve seen in years past with Love taking over the reins of the offense.
Therefore, the addition of Ridley makes all the more sense. Give Love the tools he needs to succeed while he’s still on his rookie contract. It’ll hopefully help Love develop into the Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback Packers’ fans have come to expect nowadays, and if Love doesn’t demonstrate that he’s taking steps forward in his progression even with one of the most talented receivers in the NFL (potentially two if they keep Adams), then they know that Love isn’t the answer and the team can move on. It’s a win-win.
2) Chicago Bears
Look, I love me some Darnell Mooney. I think he’s one of the great, young receivers in the league today. His connection with Justin Fields was understated at some points and he showed the potential to be a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL some day. However, with Allen Robinson likely gone this offseason, there will be a lot of cap space for the Bears to work with and getting Justin Fields another talented wide receiver to pair with Mooney is oh-so enticing.
The Bears might be a better team when they feed David Montgomery, but helping Fields develop should be the top priority for the organization right now. For a team that finished 27th in completion percentage and 24th in yards per attempt, adding a receiver who was one of the best in the league at creating separation in 2020 will help alleviate some of the pressure Fields might be feeling. If his receivers are constantly creating multiple yards of separation, he won’t need to force throws into tight windows. His mistakes likely won’t lead to as many turnovers and that does wonders for a young quarterback’s confidence.
1) Indianapolis Colts
I said it in a piece prior to the season, but Carson Wentz needs great receivers in order to succeed. His unending desire to play the hero even when he doesn’t have to doesn’t work without strong receivers downfield to make great catches. Yes, there’s a possibility that the Colts move on from Wentz this offseason, but if they don’t, they’re going to need a little bit more than Michael Pittman and a washed-up T.Y. Hilton if they want to improve their chances of winning an AFC South title.
The Colts could have eight Pro Bowlers this year, one of the highest counts in the entirety of the NFL, and they couldn’t manage to make the playoffs. That’s embarrassing. Jonathan Taylor can’t carry the load all on his own. There needs to be a passing attack available. Ridley creates so many more opportunities for creative play-calling. With Taylor’s presence and effectiveness forcing opposing defenses to respect the run, Colts’ play action should work wonders if they have a receiver capable of getting open consistently.