The future of Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is continuing to be perhaps the most discussed subplot of early 2022 for the team, and now owner Arthur Blank has weighed in.
Per the mothership, Arthur Blank reiterated that the team’s primary concern is Ridley’s well-being and said he’d love to see the 2018 first-round pick return this fall.
“We love the young man,” Blank said. “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.”
Blank’s word is one of the safer bets you’re going to get when it comes to the organization, so if he’s down with Ridley’s return, you can’t rule it out despite the rampant speculation about a potential trade.
NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo notes that it’s personal reasons, not Ridley and the team’s relationship, that is behind the receiver’s decision to step away from football during the 2021 season.
Blank added more insight into the situation on the 92.9 The Game radio program “Dukes and Bell” into the exact communication line Ridley has with the organization at the present.
#Falcons owner Arthur Blank just provided some insight on the Calvin Ridley situation on @DukesandBell929— Miles Garrett (@MilesGarrettTV) February 9, 2022
“We’re not permitted to speak with him directly but have spoken with his representatives. How he handles his situation & how that plays out remains to be seen.”
With ESPN already prognosticating that Ridley is a trade candidate this offseason and namechecking teams like the Buffalo Bills, the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots, the chance of Ridley being moved still seems to be worth mentioning, despite Blank’s obvious desire for Ridley to return to Atlanta when he’s ready.
We’re not really sure where this is headed — it seems just as likely at this point that Ridley is back in Atlanta just as he could be elsewhere. A Ridley trade would free up $11.1 million on the Falcons’ 2022 salary cap, but it would also create a massive need for a team that already has no shortage of gaps to address in the upcoming offseason.
It’d be silly to try and make any definitive statements about this, but we’re certainly glad the Falcons are supporting Ridley publicly and that indications are that there is no rift between the Falcons and Ridley, at least to our knowledge. We’ll have a resolution to this soon enough, perhaps before the 2022 NFL Draft.
A more unlikely trade candidate would be Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who will count nearly $50 million against the cap next year. With the 2022 quaterback draft class being looked down upon by draft evaluators, it’s growing more and more likely the team opts to stock the roster and maximize Ryan’s twilight years rather than field his replacement. Though, again, there’s really no way of knowing what the team’s plans are until they tell us or show us.
Blank mentioned Ryan’s future to the team’s website, saying that he’s not got the crystal ball to be able to predict how all will progress with the longtime Falcons quarterback.
“At some point, there will be a sunset for him,” Blank told AtlantaFalcons.com on Wednesday, “but exactly when that is I really can’t tell you because I really don’t know.”
Blank did say in the interview that a time will come when a change will need to be made, but that he’s got faith in Ryan’s commitment to the team.
“(Ryan) loves the game. He loves the Falcons. He loves the city and he wants to stay here,” Blank said. “That’s a decision the coach and general manager will make. But we have no reason to think he won’t continue to be playing quarterback for us.
“Great franchises have a successful transition from one quarterback to the next,” Blank said. “We want to make sure we’re focused on doing the same thing. Coach understands that and so does our general manager.”
Ryan’s contract runs out in 2024, but it’s highly possible the team will name a successor by then. There is some scuttlebutt about the possibility of the Falcons drafting Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder, who has been compared to Arthur Smith’s old QB Ryan Tannehill. He met with the team early at the Senior Bowl and seems to be a fit for Smith’s offense, so put that name in the back of your head going into April.
For now, even if Ridley’s future is uncertain, it seems like Ryan’s, at least for now, puts him in Atlanta. But, as the Falcons’ owner reminds us, a day will come when that isn’t the case.
While we’re at it, why not get Blank’s take on impending free agent running back Cordarrelle Patterson?
Blank shared with the team’s site a hope we all have: that CP is sporting the red and black this fall with the Falcons.
“From our standpoint, we’d love to have [CP] back,” Blank said. “We saw the same thing that you saw on the field. I think this is a very talented player, a very talented athlete. This is a good example of when a coach understands the scheme - which he does, Coach Smith - and he takes an athlete like this and can use him in a variety of ways I think you see the kind of production that he can have. He’s a terrific young man. He’s great with the fans. He’s great in the locker room. He’s a real competitor… I hope that he’ll be a Falcon this time [next] year.”
Patterson, of course, has been highly vocal about his desire to stay in Atlanta, though he’s now taken all of the references to the Falcons off his Twitter page and shared this Tweet Wednesday.
Waiting for free agency like!!! pic.twitter.com/17UjbKs068— cordarrelle patterson (@ceeflashpee84) February 9, 2022
Maybe there’s nothing more to it other than Patterson just wanting to refresh his socials for aesthetics' sake, but he has been very, very open about his wish to negotiate a new contract with the Falcons. Though, with his Spotrac value of a new deal roughly at $9 million, it feels very possible the two sides won’t be able to broker something before free agency starts.
Would that stink? Of course, but perhaps it’s in the best interest of a team that looks to be in the midst of a soft rebuild. Would it do well for ticket sales to not re-sign the breakout player of 2021? No, probably not, but such is the business of football.
We’ll see how all the above plays out, but it’s nice to get Blank’s honest takes on these players.