It's been a difficult season both professionally and personally for Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver Calvin Ridley. The former Alabama standout was largely expected to serve as Atlanta's main weapon offensively following the departure of Falcons legend Julio Jones. Many pegged Ridley as a receiver with the potential to lead the league in receiving in 2021 given his talent and role in Atlanta's pass-heavy offense. A first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, Ridley announced he was stepping away from the game of football to focus on his mental health in late October. He hasn't played since, nor has he surfaced from his sabbatical. Ridley ultimately appeared in just five games while recording 31 receptions for 281 yards and two touchdowns.
The NFL Network's Steve Wyche recently appeared on the Dukes and Bell Show on 92.9 The Game and ignited trade rumors
involving Ridley's name. Wyche discussed the possibility of both sides looking for a "fresh start."
Should Ridley indeed find himself on the move this offseason, we've identified three teams that should be interested. We’ve purposely selected three AFC teams, as it’s difficult to envision Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot trading Ridley within the NFC. For example, the New Orleans Saints would make sense on the surface given their need at the position, but the chances of the Falcons moving Ridley within the division is less than zero.
We wish Ridley the best as he continues to heal mentality from whatever personal struggles he's been dealing with. Our thoughts are with him at this difficult time and we hope he feels well enough to return to the football field soon.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
The Raiders will undeniably look to make a splash at the receiver position this offseason. Mike Mayock's Raiders were largely considered the favorites by various online oddsmakers to land former Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. before Beckham ultimately decided to join Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford in Los Angeles. The search for a true No. 1 receiver in Vegas will continue into the offseason, and they'd almost certainly have interest in acquiring Ridley should he become available.
Should Mayock remain in the general manager role, it's easy to see him being a fan of Ridley as a person and player. Throughout his tenure, he's consistently placed an emphasis on players that hail from big programs, perhaps even to a fault at times—he overdrafted the likes of Clelin Ferrell, Alex Leatherwood, and Damon Arnette partially due to their experiences at Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State. With Ridley having honed his craft at Alabama himself, paired with Vegas’ need for a true No. 1 receiver, it's not all that difficult to envision him becoming a Raider.
Darren Waller is an excellent tight end and Hunter Renfrow has proven to be an extremely reliable, sure-handed target all throughout 2021. However, this team still needs an alpha receiver on the outside, and Ridley would certainly fit the bill.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Sticking with the ever-competitive AFC West, Kansas City's offense would benefit greatly from adding another talented pass-catching weapon to help support the likes of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Talks of acquiring a legitimate No. 2 receiver opposite Hill have been rampant over the last few seasons, but general manager Brett Veach has had difficulties doing so while navigating salary cap issues due to a plethora of talented players on both sides of the ball (it’s a good problem to have).
The Chiefs are preparing for what's sure to be another exciting and fruitful postseason run. Sunday's shocking last-minute loss to the Cincinnati Bengals means they no longer control their own destiny for the No. 1 seed in the conference. Should they indeed fail to capture the top spot in Week 18, the road to Super Bowl LVI will not run through the freezing cold temperatures of Arrowhead Stadium in January. It makes their path to SoFi Stadium somewhat more difficult than previously expected, but the Chiefs remain a top contender to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl for the third consecutive season.
If they fail to achieve their goal, Veach will undoubtedly look to improve their personnel in the offseason. Acquiring a receiver such as Ridley may dominate Veach's wishlist.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Bill Belichick has done an extremely admirable job quickly transforming his Patriots into legitimate playoff contenders once again in short succession. The Patriots have already clinched a playoff spot and head into their Week 18 regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins with an opportunity to win the AFC East should the Buffalo Bills falter against the New York Jets.
Several newcomers can claim responsibility for New England's surprising turnaround in 2021, and rookie quarterback Mac Jones may lay at the forefront of that group. Jones has acclimated to the NFL in fine fashion while operating Josh McDaniels' offense at a high and efficient level. The Patriots have largely leaned on a dominant run game and defense while attempting to allow Jones to more so manage the game instead of relying on the former Alabama signal-caller to take it over. For Jones to really thrive in 2022 and beyond, the Patriots may look into acquiring a legitimate No. 1 receiver on the boundary.
The trio of Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor has provided Jones with some reliability in the pass-catching department, but none of these players are truly dominant receivers. Should Ridley and the Falcons decide to go their separate ways, Belichick would be wise to quickly pick up the phone.