Calvin Ridley

Falcons Sign First-Round Pick Calvin Ridley

Who says nothing happens in the NFL on the Fourth of July? On Wednesday morning, Calvin Ridley‘s agents took to Twitter to announce that the wide receiver has signed his rookie deal with the Falcons. Ridley, selected with the No. 26 overall pick, has received a four-year, $10.9MM deal, as dictated by his slot. 

First-round picks have been slower to sign that the rest of this year’s selections, including those taken near the end of the first round. That’s because Seahawks rookie running back Rashaad Penny agreed to a lower fourth season salary guarantee than last year’s No. 27 overall pick, Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White. Those selected near the end of the first round often don’t get the entirety of their fourth season base salary guaranteed, but agents can push for a decent chunk of it to be guaranteed. Penny’s reps apparently settled for less, which may have emboldened teams near the back of the order.

Apparently, the Falcons and Ridley’s camp were able to meet somewhere in the middle. Both sides are hoping that minutia like Ridley’s guarantee in 2021 and the offset language contained in the deal will be a non-factor.

Ridley joins a loaded Falcons offense as he slots behind Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. After racking up 224 passes for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns at Alabama, the Falcons believe that Ridley will be able to hit the ground running in 2018.

What I’ve seen is excellent transition in and out of breaks, it’s as good as anybody I’ve been around,” quarterback Matt Ryan said recently. “He’s got very good hands. He’s smart, we put a lot on these guys early in OTAs as far as knowing different positions, knowing where to line up, different route combinations, adjustments that we have versus certain coverages. He’s picked up all that stuff really well. You can tell he’s been well coached prior to coming into the NFL.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Unsigned First-Round Picks

Only six percent of 2018 NFL draft picks remain unsigned, and 71% (12-of-17) of those contract-less selections are first-rounders. For a certain slice of those unsigned first-round picks, especially those selected near the back end of Day 1, Seahawks rookie running back Rashaad Penny‘s contract is playing a role in negotiations, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explains.

While the three players selected at pick Nos. 23-25 (Patriots offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore, and Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst) each garnered significant fourth season base salary guarantees, Penny — who was chosen with the 27th overall pick — actually saw his fourth season salary guarantee percentage decrease when compared to 2017’s No. 27 selection, Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White, per Florio.

The NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement implemented slotted rookie contracts which make negotiations a breeze, but there’s a still a bit of wiggle room. First-rounders selected near the end of the first round won’t often get the entirety of their fourth season base salary guaranteed, but that’s an area where agents can press for a bit extra in talks. Penny’s representatives, clearly, didn’t do so, which could now lead other teams with unsigned first-round picks to withhold guarantees.

Here are the unsigned first-round picks chosen after No. 20 overall:

Overall, the amount of fourth season guarantees shouldn’t stand in the way of getting deals for the above players done, as the dollar amounts in question are in the thousands, not millions. But the lack of signed contracts does speak to the small area of available negotiation still left in rookie pacts, and is something to watch as the offseason progresses.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Breer On NFL Draft, Dolphins, Moore

Have pre-draft workouts gotten out of control? Many in the football world believe that is the case, Albert Breer of The MMQB writes.

I worked out a guy who was dead because he got smoked by the team that worked him out two days before,” said one NFC assistant coach. “I had some questions about his toughness coming in, but I had to give him a pass on the whole thing. And it’s on the coaches for doing that.”

After a workout season that saw Wisconsin cornerback Nick Nelson tear his meniscus while working out for the Lions and N.C. State defensive tackle Kentavius Street tear his ACL while with the Giants, it may be time to bring some reform to the way teams conduct auditions with prospects.

Here’s more from Breer:

  • The Dolphins say they have the ammo to get into the Top 6 of the draft if there is a player they like, but Breer gets the sense that Miami probably won’t deal up for any of this year’s top quarterbacks. If they stand pat at No. 11, Breer believes that UCLA’s Josh Rosen is the most likely signal caller to fall to them. Of course, Miami has holes to fill elsewhere, so a Ryan Tannehill successor/alternative isn’t necessarily their top priority.
  • The Cardinals seem unlikely to make a big play to land one of the best four QBs. However, if a QB they like slips into the bottom part of the Top 10, Breer could see them making a move.
  • More than one team prefers Maryland’s D.J Moore to Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, Breer hears. This is consistent with recent buzz we’ve heard about the rise of Moore. Recently, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport categorized Moore as a firm first-round prospect, which is a change from what we were hearing just a couple of weeks ago. Still, Breer thinks Ridley will be the first WR off of the board and pegs the Cowboys as a likely destination since they have a clear need after cutting Dez Bryant.
  • Overall, this draft has depth that will lead to better-than-usual quality into the fourth round, Breer writes. However, the feeling is that this group isn’t stocked with blue-chippers, which means that teams in the 20s feel that they essentially have high second-round picks. “(Picks) 20 and 55 may wind up being the same,” one exec said. “The guy in the last third of the first round, you might be paying a first-round premium on him and he’s no different than the guy at 35 to 40. And those guys in the last third of first round, top half of the second, they’re the same not only in ability but value of their role in the game.” Breer wonders if this could hamper the Bills in their efforts to trade up using the No. 22 pick.

NFL Draft Rumors: Cowboys, Key, Bills

Wednesday marks the final day for NFL draft visits, and we have some notable ones to pass along. Here’s the latest NFL Draft news:

  • LSU linebacker/defensive end Arden Key worked out with the Cowboys on Tuesday and met with the Saints on Wednesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
  • Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans is visiting the Bills and Texas tackle Connor Williams is visiting the Packers, Rapoport tweets.
  • The Patriots are hosting Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley on a pre-draft visit, a source tells Rapoport (on Twitter). The Patriots aren’t known for taking receivers in the first round, but Ridley could be an exception as they look to rebuild that group. Ridley also visited the Bears on Tuesday.
  • Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore seems to be a firm first round prospect, according to Rapoport (on Twitter). For a while, Moore appeared to be a fringe first/second round type, so his stock is improving as the draft draws near. Moore met with the Bills, who pick No. 12 and 22, on Wednesday.
  • Ohio State center Billy Price will meet with the Seahawks, Alex Marvez of SiriusXM tweets. Price is recovering from a torn pectoral muscle he suffered during the bench press at the combine. The good news is that Price is expected to be ready in time for training camp.

Draft Rumors: Guice, Key, Ridley, Panthers

LSU running back Derrius Guice has changed representation, going from the firm that represents rap star Kendrick Lamar to one headed up by Lil Wayne, as Darren Heitner of Forbes Magazine writes. Guice is the latest draft prospect to join Young Money APAA Sports, which also represents Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson. Thanks to a buyout of another firm late last year, the agency also has NFL players Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Lane Johnson, Jason McCourty and Seth Roberts in its stable.

Here’s more NFL Draft news:

  • Speaking of LSU, pass rusher Arden Key will visit with the Titans on Tuesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. At No. 25 overall, the Titans could be in range for the athletic prospect.
  • Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley will visit with the Panthers on Wednesday after the team completes it’s trip to Washington D.C., according to Rapoport. Ridley recently met with the Cowboys and is widely projected to be a first round pick.
  • Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson has Top 30 visits with the Bills, Titans, and Buccaneers this week, Rapoport tweets.
  • Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is visiting the 49ers this week, per Rapoport.
  • Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller met with the Panthers on Monday, according to Rapoport.
  • Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan, projected as a first-round pick, will have a dozen official visits to team facilities along with six individual workouts on campus, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. The Buccaneers hosted him on a visit last week, so he could stay in the Sunshine State. Bryan is the 24th best prospect in the draft, according to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah.
  • The Lions have more pressing needs at running back, pass rusher, and on the interior offensive line, but they could consider safeties early in the draft. The Lions hosted Stanford’s Justin Reid on a top-30 visit last week, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press hears.

Cowboys Arrange Several Pre-Draft Visits

Most of the prospects the Cowboys are planning to make part of their pre-draft visit itinerary will come through Dallas this week, with Albert Breer of SI.com reporting (on Twitter) numerous names have emerged.

Wide receivers Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore are among those who will trek to Texas for pre-draft summits. Defensive linemen Vita Vea, Harold Landry, Da’Ron Payne and Florida’s Taven Bryan will join them, per Breer. Offensive linemen Kolton Miller (UCLA) and James Daniels (Iowa) are also on this list, as is Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans.

Teams are allotted 30 visits before drafts, and Dallas will examine plenty of incoming NFL talent in the coming days.

Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk is also on the Cowboys’ meeting list, although he is not expected to count against the 30-player maximum since he’s considered a local prospect. With Dez Bryant‘s future up in the air, the team is clearly interested in surveying what the 2018 crop looks like. Ridley, Kirk and Moore are the top three wide receivers on Daniel Jeremiah’s NFL.com draft board and the only wideouts to appear on this 50-prospect list.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Alabama WR Calvin Ridley Enters NFL Draft

Calvin Ridley is going pro. The Alabama wide receiver announced on social media that he is entering the NFL Draft. "<strong

It is expected that Ridley will be the first wide receiver off the board in this year’s draft, though SMU’s Courtland Sutton and Oklahoma State’s James Washington could give him a run for his money. The Bears, who pick at No. 8 overall, are in need of a receiver and could have interest.

Ridley’s numbers have declined since his breakout freshman campaign, but that can be largely attributed to Alabama’s focus on the running game. This past season, Ridley had 63 catches for 967 yards and five touchdowns, but his 15.3 yards per reception average was a collegiate career best.

Riding the momentum of a National Championship, Ridley could become the latest Alabama receiving threat to go high in the draft, following the footsteps of Julio Jones and O.J. Howard.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Notes: Mayfield, Lamar, Barkley

While there’s still plenty of time for evaluation before the 2018 draft gets underway in April, it would be a “surprise” if Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield isn’t selected in the first round, according to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. Mayfield, this year’s Heisman winner, completed 71% of his passes this season for 4,340 yards, 41 touchdowns, and five interceptions. Per Breer, there are character questions about Mayfield, and his height (6’1″) could also present concerns. But Todd McShay of ESPN.com placed Mayfield in the first round of his first 2018 mock draft, and new Browns general manager John Dorsey — who will certainly be in the quarterback market next year — recently sang Mayfield’s praises.

Here’s more on next year’s NFL draft, all courtesy of Breer:

  • Mayfield may be a locked-in first round, but last year’s Heisman — Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson — isn’t likely to be selected on Day 1, reports Breer. Some evaluators have openly wondered if Jackson will play wide receiver in the NFL, but he simply may need time to develop at the next level. Indeed, Breer says there are still questions about Jackson’s “instincts and anticipation,” as well as those who believe Jackson is “more thrower than passer.” Jackson has topped 3,400 yards passing and 1,400 yards rushing in each of the past two seasons.
  • While the 2018 running back class may not compare to that of 2017 (which included Alvin Kamara, Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt, and many others), Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is still viewed as an elite prospect, per Breer. While Barkley faded down the stretch, one AFC executive tells Breer “to the people that matter, nothing’s changed” in regards to Barkley’s draft stock. Barkley posted at least 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons as a Nittany Lion, and scored 34 touchdowns over the past two years.
  • Running backs might not be plentiful in 2018, but next year’s class is loaded with offensive line talent. Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, plus Texas’ Connor Williams, are all potential top-15 picks, per Breer. That’s quite a contrast to 2017, when only two offensive lineman were selected in the first round (with Garett Bolles being the first off the board at No. 20).
  • Although Courtland Sutton (SMU) perhaps isn’t as well-known as Alabama’s Calvin Ridley or Oklahoma State’s James Washington, he has a chance to become the first wide receiver selected, according to Breer. Sutton, who is expected to stand 6’4″, 230 pounds at the combine, could even be a top-10 pick. From 2016-17, Sutton averaged 68 receptions, 1,132 yards, and 11 touchdowns.
  • Analysts believe Mayfield, North Carolina State edge rusher Bradley Chubb, and Michigan defensive lineman Maurice Hurst all helped their draft stock by staying in school for an extra season, says Breer. What does one evaluator like about Chubb, who has posted 10 sacks in consecutive seasons? “Everything.”

Draft Notes: Mayfield, Rosen, Cards, Nelson

The expected recipient of this season’s Heisman Trophy, Baker Mayfield figures to generate plenty of opinions during the pre-draft process. Some of the immediate responses from NFL evaluators have been positive following the Oklahoma senior’s dominant regular season. Albert Breer of SI.com surmises from the several-dozen scouts he’s spoken to throughout the season that Mayfield should wind up as a first-round pick, his baggage notwithstanding.

He’s extremely talented,” an AFC college scouting director told Breer. “Guys want to play for him, players believe in him, the staff believes in him. I’ve heard the comparisons to (Drew) Brees, (Johnny) Manziel, (Russell) Wilson, and there’s a little bit of all of them in his game. And he’s not Manziel in terms of the off-field stuff — he studies his ass off; he goes through his progressions; he’s not a typical spread QB. He has first-round ability.”

Mayfield’s height, around 6-foot, could be an issue for some teams. And his Big 12 background may as well. But Breer expects a first-round investment to occur.

Here’s more on Mayfield and other key prospects.

  • Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com polled five NFL execs regarding Mayfield’s best destination and didn’t get one definitive answer. While some quarterback-needy teams came up, two decision-makers mentioned the Saints and Chargers as Mayfield fits. Both suggest multiyear apprenticeships behind Brees and Philip Rivers. However, a source told Matt Miller of Bleacher Report Rivers’ resurgence has “basically shut down” the prospect of the Bolts making a quarterback-of-the-future pick in the upcoming first round. Rivers turned 36 on Friday.
  • Josh Rosen is the likeliest of the likely first-round quarterbacks to start from Day 1, a group of seven executives polled by Yahoo Sports concluded. The UCLA passer’s throwing motion is “as elite as it gets for a prospect,” Charles Robinson of Yahoo writes. That septet of execs rated Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Mayfield as the Nos. 2-4 prospects and likely first-rounders. Darnold’s elongated throwing motion and tendency to bail on plays, in the mind of some evaluators, could cost him the No. 1 spot. Allen received the “project” label in this piece, but the Wyoming product’s size/speed/arm strength combination could be enticing — especially come workout time.
  • On Allen, Miller notes the Cardinals are connected to the current junior signal-caller. Miller writes the Cardinals abandoned their first-round quarterback crusade after Patrick Mahomes went to the Chiefs at No. 10, with the team declaring it was going to delay its Carson Palmer succession strategy a year. Allen may be the next guy the Cards are eyeing, viewing his athleticism and potential — and presumably the likelihood he won’t be a top-two pick like the Pac-12 passers — as Mahomes-esque. That might not mean much at the moment, with Mahomes having yet to play, but Miller expects Allen to be a top-10 pick. That’s more than could have been said for Mahomes at this point in last year’s process. The Jets remain the team that’s done the most work on Allen, however.
  • In a post connecting teams with prospects, Miller notes the Bears are “all about” Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley. However, the draft analyst notes the Bears are expected to land a top-10 pick. Ridley, in his mind, does not qualify for such an investment.
  • Notre Dame’s offensive line figures to produce two first-round talents in tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson. While McGlinchy’s name has hovered on draft radars longer, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com notes Nelson is viewed as the better prospect among scouts. One scout declared Nelson was the best prospect he’d seen this season “by far.” Miller notes the Broncos have Nelson rated as the top offensive lineman on their early board.
  • Cowboys coaching and scouting sources told Miller the team doesn’t expect to be holding mid-first-round picks much in the near future, and he writes the team will pursue a higher-end pass rusher “while it can.” That’s bold thinking for a team that is 6-6 and has missed the playoffs in five seasons this decade, but the Cowboys did earn home-field advantage last season. And the need for an impact end remains.