The Jacksonville Jaguars are, miraculously, right on schedule with their Trevor Lawrence rebuild after one of the most dysfunctional seasons in NFL history during the quarterback’s rookie season. Head coach Doug Pederson righted the Duval ship after the ridiculous Urban Meyer debacle in 2021. Now, the Jaguars are a Week 18 win vs. the Tennessee Titans away from making the playoffs for the first time since 2017 and just the fourth time this century. And as promising as the 2022 Jaguars are with Pederson and Lawrence, they should be even better next season after they took a gamble on trading for suspended star wideout Calvin Ridley this offseason. Here’s what you need to know about the Calvin Ridley contract, suspension, and how he’ll fit with the Jags when he comes back.
The Jaguars traded for Calvin Ridley after his gambling suspension
After three seasons in the NFL, Falcons WR Calvin Ridley was on his way to becoming one of the top pass-catchers in the game. Through three seasons, the 2018 No. 26 overall pick had 217 catches for 3,061 yards and 26 touchdowns.
However, in year four, things started falling apart.
Ridley played five of the 2021 Falcons’ first six games. Following Week 6, though, he announced he’d be stepping away from the team for mental health reasons. The WR wouldn’t return for the rest of the year, and in March of the 2022 offseason, the NFL announced it was suspending him for gambling on the NFL, including his own team.
NFL reporter Lindsay Jones reported in a tweet at the time, “Per a source informed of the investigation, Ridley placed three parlays (3-, 5- and 8-teams) and bet on the Falcons to win. All of the bets were placed between Nov. 23-28 — the Falcons beat Jacksonville on Nov. 28. All of the bets were via a mobile app in Florida.”
The suspension was for “at least” the 2022 NFL season.
Despite the ban, the Jaguars traded for the talented pass-catcher at the 2022 NFL trade deadline. NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported on Twitter at the time the trade is “for complex draft compensation that can be worth at maximum a 2023 5th rounder and a 2024 2nd rounder. Ridley’s suspension runs through at least the 2022 season.”
Now, the Jaguars are possibly a playoff team, and they may have a Pro Bowl-level WR coming in next season.
The Calvin Ridley contract
When the Falcons drafted Ridley out of Alabama at the end of the first round in 2018, the initial Calvin Ridley contract was for four years, $10,900,711 with a $6,007,790 signing bonus, and $8,454,251 guaranteed.
In his four years with the Falcons, Ridley played out that contract. Ahead of the 2021 season, though, the team picked up his fifth-year option for (what they assumed) was 2022. That one-year Calvin Ridley contract extension was for $11,116,000, fully guaranteed.
When the gambling suspension came down, the player forfeited his entire 2022 salary. However, the fifth-year option will convey to Ridley’s next NFL season if it happens.
That means the Jaguars-Calvin Ridley contract for next season will be for one year and $11.1 million. The salary could also be prorated if he’s suspended for any additional games to start next season.
Jacksonville will then have one season to decide if Ridley is the player he used to be before possibly having to offer him a lucrative extension in 2024.
The talented WR will make the Jaguars better when he returns
The fact that the wide receiver took time off for mental health issues before the Jaguars traded for the Calvin Ridley contract is cause for concern for the team. So is the fact that Ridley is technically suspended “at least” through the 2022 season.
If the talented WR refuses to show remorse for his actions — as he did when the suspension first came down — his ban could continue in 2023. Also, it’s fair to ask questions about his long-term dedication to football.
The hope for Jaguars fans is that, one, the team did their due diligence and are confident Ridley will be ready, willing, and able to play in 2023, and two, that he truly is ready to roll, as he possibly suggested in a tweet on January 3, 2023, where he wrote, “Can’t lie I’m mad I’m bout ready.”
If Ridley does step between the lines in Duval County next season, he will automatically be the best WR on the team compared to this season’s wideouts. Here’s a look at Trevor Lawrence’s top pass-catchers in 2022 vs. Ridley in his last full season in 2020:
- Christian Kirk: 78 catches, 1,008 yards, seven touchdowns
- Zay Jones: 78 catches, 802 yards, five touchdowns
- Marvin Jones: 44 catches, 500 yards, three touchdowns
- Calvin Ridley: 90 catches, 1,374 yards, nine touchdowns
From a draft capital perspective and a Calvin Ridley contract perspective, the Jaguars aren’t taking a huge risk. However, if Ridley plays up to his talent level, it will take the Jaguars to another level in 2023. And if that happens, the Jags won’t just be playoff contenders. They will be Super Bowl contenders.