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Falcons trade WR Calvin Ridley to Jaguars

Shocker of the trade deadline, right there.

Atlanta Falcons v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons figured to have a quiet trade deadline right up until they didn’t. Atlanta has traded wide receiver Calvin Ridley for compensation that could include a couple of draft picks, a shocker considering Ridley remains suspended for the entire 2022 NFL season.

Per Mia O’Brien at 1010 AM in Jacksonville, the Jaguars and Falcons are finalizing a trade about an hour before the deadline.

Ian Rapoport at NFL Network indicates Atlanta will get “complex” compensation that could be worth up to a 2024 second rounder and 2023 fifth rounder. The 2023 pick is dependent on whether Ridley is reinstated by the NFL by a particular date (not sure when that would be), and bottoms out as a sixth-rounder. The Falcons will get at least a fourth-rounder if Ridley makes the team in 2024, with a chance to accelerate to a third based on how much he plays. If the Jaguars give him a long-term deal, Atlanta gets a second-round pick.

“As our team continues its growth, we continue our daily focus on improving our roster and believe this move is the best decision to make at this time. We appreciate Calvin’s contributions to the organization and wish him well on his next steps,” general manager Terry Fontenot said via a release from the team.

Jaguars GM Trent Baalke shared his thoughts on acquiring Ridley with Jacksonville media late Tuesday afternoon.

Ridley finishes his Falcons career with 248 catches for 3,342 yards and 28 touchdown passes. The team’s first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft was a star in the making after his first two successful seasons, but scuffled in the early going under new head coach Arthur Smith and then chose to step away from the NFL to focus on his mental health.

The Falcons were reportedly looking to trade him before they learned that he would be suspended for the entire 2022 season due to (frankly small potatoes) gambling, as he bet on the Falcons last year while he was away from the team. It didn’t seem likely that Atlanta would move him before the 2023 offseason rolled around, but Terry Fontenot found a way to negotiate a conditional package that made the Jaguars happy and ensured the Falcons got something no matter what Ridley’s future holds in store for him.

It was unlikely that the Falcons were going to bring Ridley back into the fold, and understanding and accepting that helps put this trade in its proper context. Ridley leaving the team to take care of himself was something that athletes should feel they can do, as we’ve written previously, and the Falcons stood by him throughout. It was clear from reports that the Falcons were close to closing a deal with the Eagles in the offseason that they were looking to move him, however, and Ridley may well have wanted a fresh start himself, though that’s pure speculation because he never publicly said so.

Ridley, who is from Florida, lands a little closer to home. When he can play in 2023, he’ll join Christian Kirk in providing Trevor Lawrence with some nice weapons, assuming he’s ready to take the field. As we saw in Atlanta, Ridley’s a terrific route runner and dangerous red zone weapon, and that will make him a nice fit with the Jaguars.

Atlanta, meanwhile, picks up a couple more selections. Even a sixth-rounder in 2023 would be welcome, given that this team has been taking swings at interesting players like Justin Shaffer and Frank Darby with those selections, while they’ve grabbed truly useful defenders like Adetokunbo Ogundeji and Ta’Quon Graham in the fifth under Fontenot and company. That 2024 is a less certain item, but a fourth would be fine and a second would be terrific. Again, considering that Atlanta was not going to bring Ridley back and he can’t even play until next season, this is rock-solid compensation.

In addition, I believe all of Ridley’s fifth-year option salary should come off the books next year, freeing up over $11 million in cap space for the Falcons. The team was already projected to have the second-highest cap space in the entire NFL next year, and now they’ll have even more to work with. Expect splashes.

If all goes well, Ridley will be back on the field and likely a major asset for the Jaguars passing game in 2023, while Atlanta will get draft picks they can use to keep enhancing an improving roster. We wish Ridley well in Jacksonville, but it’s an unexpected ending to a long and winding saga in Atlanta.