Titans To Sign WR Calvin Ridley

After a Jaguars-Patriots duel formed in the Calvin Ridley sweepstakes, a mystery suitor revealed itself. The Titans are swooping in with a big offer to land the former first-round pick.

Ridley will commit to Tennessee on a four-year, $92MM deal, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports. The Titans are giving Ridley $50MM fully guaranteed. A year after winning a lower-priced DeAndre Hopkins pursuit, Tennessee will pair him with Ridley.

This marks a windfall for Ridley, who will cash in despite missing the 2022 season due to a gambling suspension and leaving the Falcons early in the 2021 slate. After Atlanta traded Ridley to Jacksonville during his suspension, the former Alabama standout posted his second 1,000-yard year. Although the Jaguars wanted to retain Ridley, they may have stopped short of this price point.

As of Wednesday afternoon, however, the Titans checked in with the NFL’s most cap space. Ran Carthon‘s team carried $72MM before the Ridley agreement. While the Patriots and Jaguars both made offers, a stealth suitor may have topped them both. The Jags had been viewed as likely to retain Ridley, but they already have three veteran contracts at receiver (Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Gabe Davis) and another at tight end (Evan Engram). Tennessee has Hopkins on a relatively low-cost accord, after beating out the Patriots in that race as well, giving the team a clearer path to pursue this year’s top free agent wideout. Indeed, in a piece written by Jeff Howe, Larry Holder, and Randy Mueller of The Athletic (subscription required), we learned that while the Jags’ and Pats’ offers were in the same ballpark, the Titans’ proposal was significantly higher.

At $23MM per year, Ridley checks in as the NFL’s ninth-highest-paid receiver; the $50MM guaranteed at signing, however, is the more important number. Only Tyreek Hill‘s 2022 Dolphins deal carried more locked in at signing. That illustrates where this market went and the aggressive pushes teams were making to bring in this market’s top receiver.

Ridley, 29, will also reunite with the Jaguars’ 2023 pass-game coordinator, Nick Holz, who landed the Titans’ OC job earlier this offseason. Holz was on-hand for a rather uneven Jaguars offensive season, with Press Taylor calling plays. Ridley, however, used the 2023 slate to rebound after effectively two years away. The 2018 first-round pick left the Falcons in October 2021, and while the team helped him find a desired trade destination — Ridley picked Jacksonville — money may well be talking for the Florida native.

PFR’s top 50 free agent ranks listed the Titans as a potential Ridley suitor — largely due to cap space and what has transpired since the A.J. Brown trade. The Titans have not seen Brown’s immediate replacement — 2022 first-rounder Treylon Burks — become a difference-maker. And less than two years after the ill-fated Brown move, the Titans ditched their GM (Jon Robinson) and HC (Mike Vrabel). The Titans were not offering Brown a deal in this ballpark; two years later, and with the cap exploding to $255.4MM, a new GM will sign off on this money for Ridley, whose career has been much rockier than the current Eagles WR1’s.

As Julio Jones‘ hamstring trouble — which helped lead the Falcons to trade him to the Titans the following year — produced a 2020 shutdown in Atlanta, his younger sidekick broke through. Ridley’s 90-catch, 1,374-yard, nine-TD season placed him on the All-Pro second team. Ridley said he played most of the 2020 season on a broken foot, but he was not informed of the break until June 2021. He underwent surgery, which was described as a minor procedure, but said he was not close to 100% by Week 1. This preceded Ridley leaving the Falcons, citing mental health reasons.

Ridley’s rookie contract tolled to 2023 due to the subsequent gambling ban, which will add more risk to this Titans bet. Although Ridley produced in spurts for the Jags in a 1,016-yard season, he will turn 30 before the 2024 season ends. Two of Ridley’s four 100-yard showings came against a struggling Titans team, though, and Carthon will place a big bet on Ridley having plenty left in the tank to help Levis. This contract will pair with Levis’ rookie deal, which runs through 2026.

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