Jaguars: Calvin Ridley Becomes Clear No. 1 Target For Trevor Lawrence

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) practices during an organized team activity Tuesday, May 30, 2023 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) practices during an organized team activity Tuesday, May 30, 2023 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. /

The Jacksonville Jaguars sent shockwaves around the NFL world when they acquired the then-suspended Calvin Ridley in exchange for two conditional draft picks. Did Trevor Lawrence get a true No. 1 target at wide receiver, or will this become yet another distraction for the franchise?

Calvin Ridley Took A Wild Path To Jaguars

First, let’s look at how we got to this point with Ridley. He was once a four-star talent at Alabama, following in the footsteps of former Tide superstar pass catchers like Julio Jones and Amari Cooper. The Falcons selected Ridley in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

He burst onto the scene in his first two seasons in the league, including back-to-back 800-yard seasons and 17 total touchdowns in that span. Year 3 saw Ridley become one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. His 90 receptions, 1,374 yards, and nine touchdowns netted the star a spot on the All-Pro second team.

Entering the final season of his rookie deal (sans the fifth-year option), Ridley was expected to lead the receiving crops again in 2021. Unfortunately, injuries and mental health issues bubbled up and abruptly stopped the ascending momentum.

While the franchise worked through the off-the-field issues, it was still a bummer for the team from an X’s and O’s standpoint. Without Ridley, the Falcons leaned heavily on rookie tight end Kyle Pitts to lead the passing game.

Gambling Suspension Effectively Ends The Calvin Ridley Era In Atlanta

With a fresh start expected for both Ridley and Atlanta in 2022, the NFL dropped a news bomb early in March. Roger Goodell announced the findings of a recent investigation into the Falcons and accusations of broken gambling rules.

Ultimately, Ridley was found guilty of placing bets, something that is vehemently against the newly-established NFL betting rules. Not only did Ridley place bets, but he also included the team he plays for in a parlay. Betting for or against the team you are employed by is considered one of the most egregious mistakes a player can make.

The findings resulted in an indefinite suspension that kept Ridley on the shelf for the entire 2022 season. The Falcons entered the year with another rookie leading the way, this time in the form of Drake London. The former USC star held up well as the top target on the depth chart, leaving Atlanta fans dreaming of a trio of Ridley-London-Pitts going forward.

Sadly, the franchise and the player decided that a fresh start would be the best path for each side. The two sides already engaged in trade talks during the 2021 season, so the framework and the willingness to move on dated back to before the betting incident.

Jaguars Trade For Calvin Ridley; Acquire Former First-Round Talent For Pennies On The Dollar

The Jaguars monitored this situation throughout the 2022 season, and as the trade deadline approached, the front office made its move. In exchange for some conditional draft capital, Jacksonville acquired Ridley, even with the suspension still active.

Ridley’s suspension continued for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs. Soon after the team’s loss to Kansas City, Ridley was reinstated and cleared to attend all team activities. Finally, the 28-year-old gets the chance to regain his All-Pro form with a burgeoning generational talent behind center.

Christian Kirk performed admirably as the No. 1 option, especially after most NFL fans laughed at the suspected “overpay”. Another breakout star from 2022 was tight end, Evan Engram. The former Giant is more of a pseudo-receiver, but he fits exactly what Doug Pederson looks for in the passing game.

Zay Jones and Jamal Agnew are no slouches, either. Slotting them into the WR3 and WR4 spots on the depth chart makes the unit stout from top to bottom. Travis Etienne in the running game and a couple of rookies (Tank Bigsby and Brenton Strange) give the Jaguars a realistic path to being an elite offense on Sundays.

The piece that will put the unit over the top is Calvin Ridley. The last time he suited up for a full season it resulted in an All-Pro campaign and some superb statistics. With Trevor Lawrence and Doug Pederson at the peak of their powers… don’t be surprised if the Ridley trade goes down as the best in franchise history.