UPDATE (7 p.m. ET): Albert Breer of The MMQB issued a correction to his initial report, clarifying that Calvin Ridley’s contract will not toll as a result of his leave of absence from the Atlanta Falcons for mental health reasons.
Ridley will carry a cap hit of $11.1 million in 2022 and will be scheduled to hit free agency in 2023. At that value, he remains a potential trade option for the receiver-needy New England Patriots, but he won’t be nearly as easy to fit under their salary cap.
ORIGINAL STORY: Calvin Ridley will be an in-demand trade target for receiver-needy teams this offseason. A newly reported wrinkle in his contract makes him even more desirable.
Ridley, a 1,300-yard receiver in 2020, stepped away from the Atlanta Falcons after five games this season to focus on his mental health. Atlanta already had picked up his fifth-year option, locking in a guaranteed $11.1 million salary for the 2022 season.
However, Ridley’s early-season exit from the team caused his contract to “roll over,” according to a report Wednesday from The MMQB’s Albert Breer, meaning he now won’t hit his option-year pay bump until 2023.
“He’s signed up for $1.97 million for next year and $11.12 million for ’23, a bargain for an in-prime wideout,” Breer wrote. “It’s hard to imagine the Falcons would bend over backward at this point to make a new deal for him, which is to say Atlanta is in a spot to sell off a player whose contract is a great value, and that would put Ridley in a position to get paid earlier (presuming he’s ready to return after stepping away for his mental health).”
If that reading of Ridley’s contract situation is accurate, he’d be a tremendous value for a team eyeing an infusion of wideout talent. The 27-year-old showed legit No. 1 potential in his most recent full season, catching 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020. He also posted a 64-821-10 line as a rookie in 2018 and 63-866-7 in 2019 despite missing three games.
Over his four-year career, Ridley ranks 20th in the NFL in receiving yards per game — just ahead of Amari Cooper and Terry McLaurin — and his 28 touchdown catches are tied for 12th-most, even with his prolonged absence.
Assuming he is ready to return to the field this fall, Ridley would be an ideal target for the New England Patriots, who should be looking to improve their receiving corps as promising quarterback Mac Jones enters Year 2. New England got solid production from Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne this season but lacks a true game-changer at the position.
The Patriots, who hosted Ridley for a pre-draft visit and love bringing on Alabama products, also likely won’t have the salary cap space to spend big in free agency, making a trade option with an affordable price tag all the more enticing.
It’s unclear what compensation the Falcons would require, but reports have suggested a second-round draft pick could be enough to pry Ridley away.