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Patriots or Jaguars? What is Going On With Calvin Ridley?

Will the former first-round pick and Atlanta Falcon return to Jacksonville?

Calvin Ridley has the wide receiver market in the palm of his hands. 

The Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver will officially be a free agent in roughly 24 hours, but the last 30 hours or so have been a period where Ridley and his representatives have been free to speak to other teams under the legal tampering period guidelines. 

And in those 30 hours there has been a flurry of reports, a new wide receiver signed by Jacksonville for $13 million a year, and then more reports. 

Naturally, sorting through all of these different reports can be confusing. So, where do things really stand with Ridley and the Jaguars? Here is what we know. 

Multiple outlets reported that as the No. 1 receiver on the market, Ridley would likely be able to command a large price in free agency. No. 1 receiver money, at that, which is well north of $20 million a year. Now this made sense in theory, but it doesn't quite seem like it has played out that way.

According to a source familiar with the situation, the market for Ridley hasn't been quite as robust as people predicted. The source says there are two factors at play: the deep receiver class in the 2024 NFL Draft and Ridley's age. 

There could be as many as a dozen receivers taken in the top-50 in April, let alone in the first two rounds. Teams are genuinely all in on this year's receiver class. Not just the top tier of it, either. There is believed to be legitimate depth throughout the class, and it doesn't appear teams are rushing to pay receivers as a result.

This has been reflected in the first 24+ hours of free agency. The only wide receivers to agree to deals during the first day of the legal tampering period were Gabe Davis ($39 million deal) and Devin Duvernay ($8.5 million). Ironically, both receivers ended up with the Jaguars.

Another receiver found a new home on Tuesday afternoon, with Darnell Mooney agreeing to terms with the Atlanta Falcons on a three-year, $39 million deal.

In short, not much money has been thrown around at wide receiver. Teams think they can get cheap production in the draft, and they might be right. 

Then there is the fact that Ridley will turn 30 on his new deal. Ridley, 29, is becoming a free agent for the first time at an older age due to the time he missed as a result of his suspension.

Of the wide receivers who have signed the biggest deals since 2016, here was their age at signing: 

  • Christian Kirk: 25
  • Kenny Golladay: 27
  • Sammy Watkins: 24
  • Pierre Garcon: 31
  • Allen Robinson: 28
  • Tyrell Williams: 27
  • Allen Robinson (again): 24
  • Paul Richardson: 25
  • Marvin Jones: 26
  • Robert Woods: 24
  • Gabriel Davis: 25
  • Darnell Mooney: 26

In short, Ridley would be just as much of an outlier to get free agency money as Garcon was. Context is important, but there isn't much precedent for Ridley. And, per the source, this has been a sticking point for several teams that were expected to be in the market for Ridley. 

Teams think Ridley is talented, but they are hesitant to give him a longer-term deal. Ridley's camp is obviously trying to get the best price possible since this is likely his only chance to significantly cash in, but there are question marks from other teams, though the source expressed that a number of teams (Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, to name two) have either done extensive homework or have at least touched base with Ridley's camp. 

With that said, it is looking more and more like the Patriots are the only non-Jaguars team that is seriously in the running. The smoke has been heavy around the Patriots and their pursuit of Ridley for some time, but it is believed the Patriots -- like the Jaguars -- have a hard price for Ridley that they are unwilling to go over. 

Ridley has expressed a desire privately and publicly to return to Jacksonville under the right deal, with factors such as being a Florida native and the ability to have a second season with Trevor Lawrence both at play. If the money is equal or close to equal, Ridley is expected to return to Jacksonville, per the source. 

And so far, there aren't many reasons to think the Jaguars have been outpriced. 

The Jaguars' interest in re-signing Ridley is obvious, though they have also made it clear there is a price they are unwilling to meet. So far, it does not appear that price has come into play. 

Per the source, the Jaguars are confident that there is a strong chance Ridley return but are still aware there is a chance they could lose him. If the Jaguars were getting outpriced on the market, it is doubtful they would feel this way. 

The Jaguars could re-sign Ridley to a shorter deal, giving him a chance to hit free agency again in 2026 or 2027 and potentially cash-in then. And, the source said, the Jaguars feel better about their chances to make a deal happen the longer Ridley waits to make his decision. 

In terms of the Jaguars' draft picks, they are currently set to lose a third-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons. 

If Ridley re-signs with the Jaguars before the start of the new league year, the Falcons will own the Jaguars' second-round pick instead. This scenario, though, is unlikely for a number of reasons. 

The first reason is that Ridley simply has not yet decided. This isn't the Jaguars playing cloak and dagger to prevent losing a second-round pick. There is a genuine chance they lose Ridley. If they wanted to make that chance's odds go down to 0%, they would have re-signed him at any point prior to now. 

Ridley has been free to join any of the other 31 teams since noon yesterday, and it is clear the Patriots have put an offer on the table. If Ridley returns to Jacksonville, it isn't the Jaguars "gaming" the system or the trade. They opened themselves up to the risk of losing Ridley. If they don't lose Ridley, it has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with Ridley's own personal decision. 

There is still a lack of clarity surrounding Ridley, but it looks more and more like we will have answers on his landing spot soon.