Trades can be made official on the new league year that begins March 6, which is just over a month away. That means if teams want to kick things off with a blockbuster move, they’re probably working through that right now, and the Falcons may not be an exception.
ESPN’s Mike Sando talked to league decision-makers to try to figure out who might be on the move, and the names that came back included a pair of Falcons. You won’t be stunned by either name, especially because you read the title of this article.
It’s unsurprising in the extreme to see his name on this list. Ridley missed most of the season after stepping away from football to focus on his mental health, and we haven’t heard directly from him or anything about his status from the team since. In the absence of any concrete information, Ridley’s likes and posts have come under increased scrutiny and there’s rampant speculation that he’ll be moved, with respected NFL insiders like Steve Wyche and Mike Garafolo at NFL Network indicating they think it’s a real possibility.
After stepping away from football for 12 games to work on his mental health, Ridley’s future remains uncertain. But he is knocking on the door of top-10-receiver status when on the field, and his $11.6 million option in 2022 easily could be flipped into a long-term deal. Atlanta needs the draft capital and the cap savings. A few sleepers to watch here: Buffalo, Chicago and New England.
If the Falcons do make the move, what might they get in return? There is scuttlebutt that the price could be a 1st rounder and Atlanta should absolutely try to get at least that if they are going to make a move, given that Ridley is pretty young, incredibly talented, and quite affordable in 2022.
Besides Ridley, Jarrett has the easiest contract to move. Trading him on March 6 gives you over $16 million in savings against $7.3 million in dead money, and Jarrett is also on the last year of his deal.
The two-time Pro Bowler needs a new contract, and the cap-strapped Falcons won’t be eager to absorb his $23.8 million cap hit. But the 28-year-old is still explosive, and plenty of teams see him as a top-10 interior player. The star-hungry Rams should pair him with Aaron Donald and wreck the NFC West.
That last thought is legitimately upsetting, so we won’t dwell on it. The prospect of Jarrett being traded can’t be waved away, though, because if the Falcons aren’t giving him an extension it’s not clear it makes a ton of sense for them to keep him for a year where they’re still re-tooling the defense and then let him potentially hit the open market in 2023 to get a mega-deal from another team. Because he’s one of the team’s few truly great defenders, I still can’t see them actually moving him, but there’s no doubt that they’d get cap space and a quality return if they did.
Of course, while league executives obviously are interested in the Falcons moving two of their best players, we have zero indication from the team that they’re considering making any sort of move. Their cap situation in 2022 suggests that they’ll need to move, extend or restructure more than one of their four or five biggest contracts, which include not just Ridley and Jarrett but also Matt Ryan, Deion Jones and Jake Matthews, if they want to have any kind of real space to play with. That makes trade scenarios worth thinking about, even if they kind of bum us out.
Do you think either player will be traded in 2022?