The Atlanta Falcons enter the offseason with a slew of questions about its top players. Something has to happen with players like Matt Ryan, Deion Jones, and Grady Jarrett, whether trade, cut, restructure, or extension. The Falcons look far from being competitive, meaning no expensive veteran is guaranteed to return in 2022.
The future may be cloudiest for wide receiver Calvin Ridley who missed the majority of the 2021 season after going on the non-football injury list. Ridley indicated he was stepping away from football to focus on his mental health. Only later did it become clear he was stepping away for the remainder of the season. We know Ridley should be entering the fifth year of his rookie contract at about $11.1 million.
We don’t know if the new Falcons brain trust thinks Ridley is a scheme fit worthy of a contract extension... or if it is time to part ways. If the Falcons decide to trade Ridley, there will reportedly be a healthy market. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN checked around the league for ESPN Insider (sign up for Insider here). Based on information from league executives and scouts, Fowler says, “several teams view him as a top-10 receiver. His market would be robust.”
Robust is a good term if you are in the selling market. It would be tough for the Falcons to lose top-10 receivers in back-to-back seasons. However, if Ridley does not fit well into Atlanta’s long-term plans, this is the team’s best chance to move on.
What could Atlanta expect for Ridley? After all, top-10 receivers do not grow on trees. Per Fowler, “One league exec says a conditional second-round pick — which could turn into a first-rounder based on playing time — seems like a sweet spot for Ridley.”
The Falcons would certainly entertain that sort of offer. The problem is a conditional trade means Atlanta will be waiting until the 2023 draft to cash in on the eventual pick. That leaves another year down a top player in 2022. Other teams would likely want some protection, in case Ridley steps away again then is lost in free agency.
Perhaps a robust market does change that from a conditional 2023 pick to a 2022 pick. Atlanta needs all the help it can get and the sooner the better.