The New England Patriots enjoyed a better-than-expected 2021 season, but there’s work to be done this offseason before we can say with any confidence that they’re ready to compete with the best teams in the AFC.
In a pass-driven league, the Pats can’t keep relying on Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels to outsmart opponents in the run game. That was on full display in the Wild Card loss to Buffalo when Josh Allen went nuclear.
While establishing more confidence in Mac Jones (which will come with time) will be crucial in closing the gap, it would also help if the Pats had a true “X” wide receiver who can go out and dominate an individual matchup.
Free agency will present a glut of options for Belichick, but could the answer come in the form of a blockbuster trade? Over the last few weeks, the buzz about Calvin Ridley potentially landing in New England has grown louder.
In light of these rumors, let’s dive into some pros and cons that would come with trading for the Falcons star.
The pros and cons of a Patriots trade for WR Calvin Ridley.
Pro: Ridley would change the entire offense
Might as well get the obvious one out of the way first, right?
As presently constructed, the Patriots receiving corps doesn’t have a deep threat. It was nice to think Nelson Agholor could be that guy after his electric 2020 season with the Raiders in which he finished with the second-most yards per catch (18.7) of any receiver, but he came back down to earth this campaign — and could be a potential cut.
Last season with the Falcons, Ridley led the NFL with 16 catches of 20 yards or more. He’s obviously not a one-trick pony, but the former first-round pick’s home run ability is more than enough of a reason to trade for him.
Con: Ridley’s mental health situation
The Patriots need to deeply explore Ridley’s mental health after the receiver stepped away from the Falcons just seven games into the 2021 season.
At the time, it was surmised he’d return after a few weeks, but he didn’t play another game. Now, reports are saying he wants a fresh start and we’re forced to question whether that has more to do with the Falcons or the sport of football.
No sense trading for a guy who’s contemplating his NFL future.
Pro: Trade value/Eligible for extension
As long as Belichick doesn’t feel like he’s getting the short end of the stick, he’s shown a willingness to make trades.
When it comes to Ridley, his value has dropped significantly after he played just five games to focus on his mental health. He also has just one year left on his rookie deal, so he’s eligible for an extension. That could knock his value down even further, assuming the Patriots are interested in extending him.
Either way, New England likely won’t have to pay a premium for a WR who, when healthy, produces like a top-15 player at a position that has about 25 or so elite talents around the league.
Con: Is Ridley actually a No. 1 receiver?
Talent can only get you so far in the NFL. Ridley has a ton of it, but is he a true alpha receiver? His only 1,000 yard season came in 2020 and Julio Jones, though he was in and out of the lineup, was healthy for nine games that year.
In 2021, Ridley’s yards per game decreased from 91.6 (fourth in the NFL) to just 56.2 this season. Like always, context matters, and you have to wonder whether that dip in production can be attributed to his mental health.
Regardless, we’ve yet to see Ridley operate as a clear-cut No. 1 option for a full season. It’ll be up to Belichick and the Patriots’ talent evaluators to determine whether the 27-year-old has what it takes to be the top dog on a playoff team.
The Patriots’ offense needs a WR1, and at this moment it’s fair to question whether Ridley falls under that category or if he’s just a really good WR2.