The Atlanta Falcons faced an unexpected loss on the offensive side of the ball during the 2021 season. There was some hope that they would be able to turn things around with Arthur Smith, who was lauded for his offensive scheme with the Tennessee Titans, taking over as head coach.
The team reloaded, hoping to make another run for the postseason with Matt Ryan at quarterback. They selected Florida tight end, Kyle Pitts, with the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Combined with Calvin Ridley at wide receiver, Ryan had two explosive options to get the ball to.
Unfortunately for Ryan and the Falcons, things didn’t pan out that way. Ridley ended up stepping away from the game of football to work on his mental health. He missed the final 12 games of the season and Atlanta’s offense was never able to recover.
Without Ridley in the lineup and Cordarrelle Patterson taking on a bigger role as a running back, the pass-catching options at wide receiver were underwhelming. The Falcons are hopeful that Ridley can get back on the field this season, but one NFL executive doesn’t believe it will be with them.
In a piece over at ESPN, NFL executives made some predictions for 2022. One of the predictions involved Ridley, whom this executive thinks is going elsewhere once he returns to the field. There were three teams mentioned as possible landing spots; the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins.
“One league exec says a conditional second-round pick — which could turn into a first-rounder based on playing time — seems like a sweet spot for Ridley. That would allow the team to cover itself if he can’t play a full season. The Patriots, Saints and Dolphins are among receiver-needy teams that could covet a top pass-catcher like Ridley.”
As one NFC scout mentioned, the Falcons are up against it when it comes to the salary cap. Trading away Ridley to acquire some draft capital to improve other areas of the roster, such as the offensive line, with cost-controlled rookie contracts makes sense.
As for the teams mentioned, two of them make more sense than the third. The Patriots need to upgrade the weapons around Mac Jones. Ridley would provide him with a bonafide No. 1 option to get the ball to and take the offense to another level.
The Dolphins have Jaylen Waddle and DeVante Parker under contract for 2022 at the wide receiver position. They could certainly use more help there, but the quarterback spot will be more of their focus than wide receiver.
With Sean Payton stepping down as the Saints’ head coach, no one knows what direction they will be going in. They have to figure out the situation with Michael Thomas before looking to bring on another wide receiver in Ridley. However, those two would combine to make arguably the best wide receiver duo in the NFL.
Despite missing a large chunk of this season, Ridley has proven that he is a top wide receiver in the NFL. He was unstoppable in 2020 despite Julio Jones being in and out of the lineup. In 15 games, he caught 90 passes for 1,374 and nine touchdowns. He is an elite wide receiver and would upgrade the offense of any team.