Calvin Ridley, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Trade
Calvin Ridley, Joe Douglas, New York Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

The New York Jets should target Calvin Ridley

It appears that Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley could be headed for the trade block this offseason, according to NFL Network reporter Steve Wyche.

Ridley only played five games for the Falcons this year before announcing on Halloween that he was stepping away to focus on his mental health. He has not played since, nor has the team made any comment on his status.

In May, the Falcons picked up Ridley’s fifth-year option for $11.1 million, so he is under contract with Atlanta for the 2022 season.

The rumors surrounding Ridley are far from substantiated, and it’s anybody’s guess as to whether the Falcons will actually consider trading him. But let’s have some fun with the idea for the moment.

If Calvin Ridley hits the trade block, he would be the perfect target for general manager Joe Douglas and the New York Jets.

Yeah, there are obvious reasons that any NFL team would love to have Ridley. He is a dynamic 27-year-old receiver who tied for fourth in the NFL with 1,374 receiving yards in 2020, his most recent fully-played season. Ridley also has 28 touchdowns in only 49 career games, an average of 9.7 per 17 games.

The guy is a great wide receiver in his prime. It goes without saying that any team should want someone like that.

However, Ridley is especially enticing for the Jets in particular for this reason: he would address specific weaknesses that the Jets have in their wide receiver unit.

Ridley’s strengths are a perfect match for the holes that the Jets will be looking to fill when searching for wide receiver talent this offseason. He would not merely be a flashy addition for New York – rather, he would add important elements that the Jets do not have.

Let’s get into the skills that make Ridley an ideal Jets target.

1. Deep threat

Ridley was one of the NFL’s most prolific deep threats in 2020 – perhaps the most.

Here are Ridley’s numbers on deep targets (20+ yards downfield) in 2020 and where they ranked among wide receivers:

  • Targets: 36 (2nd)
  • Catches: 16 (1st)
  • Yards: 475 (2nd)

This would be huge for the Jets, as they do not have an established deep threat. Their most productive deep receiver in 2021 (as of Week 17’s conclusion) was rookie Elijah Moore, who ranks 18th among wide receivers in deep catches (8) and 39th in deep receiving yards (193). Following Moore was Keelan Cole and Corey Davis with five deep catches apiece, tying them for 40th.

Even Moore’s fairly solid deep production (18th in catches despite missing five games) doesn’t necessarily constitute him as an intimidating vertical field-stretcher.

As you can glean from the disparity between Moore’s ranking in deep catches (18th) and deep yardage (39th), most of his “deep” grabs barely crossed the 20-yard threshold and were not actually vertical routes – they were essentially intermediate catches for all intents and purposes. His average of 24.1 yards per reception on deep catches was the lowest in the league among wide receivers with at least five deep catches.

That number is by no means a knock on Moore’s performance quality – it just tells us about the style of catches he was making on those targets that were charted as “deep”.

Most of those catches were routes in which he halted his vertical momentum around the 20-25 yard range and either broke toward the sideline or came back toward the quarterback – which are not the type of catches that come to mind when you think of the term “deep threat”. We haven’t seen much of Moore on bombs down the sideline or up the seam – that’s the type of threat the Jets are missing right now.

It’s in the intermediate range (10-19 yards downfield) where Moore dominated at times in 2021 and has the best chance of enjoying elite success throughout his NFL career.

Over his breakout stretch from Weeks 8-13 (76.5 receiving yards per game over six contests), Moore ranked seventh among wide receivers in intermediate catches (11), sixth in intermediate receiving yards (207), and second in intermediate touchdowns (3). His 97.3 Pro Football Focus grade on intermediate targets ranked third-best among wideouts over that span, trailing only CeeDee Lamb and Cooper Kupp.

And, of course, those numbers do not even include the “deep” catches he made that were only barely beyond the limits of the “intermediate” range. With that in mind, it’s clear that the 10-to-25-yard area was his bread-and-butter.

Moore certainly has the potential to become a great vertical threat, but that’s not the basis of his game at the moment. In Moore, the Jets have their go-to guy who can keep the offense moving with chunk gains through his shifty route-running and after-the-catch prowess. To complement him, the Jets need someone who can be relied upon to win vertically, stretch the defense, and produce those game-changing bombs of 30 yards and beyond.

Ridley would give the Jets just that.

2. Defeating man coverage

Over four games against the division-rival Patriots and Dolphins, the Jets’ offense averaged 13.3 points per game and 2.3 turnovers per game.

What do the Patriots and Dolphins’ defenses have in common? They love to play man coverage.

Winning against man coverage was a major issue for the Jets’ receivers this year, so it’s no surprise that New York’s offense was stagnant against the man-heavy Pats and Fins. The receivers created very little separation in man-to-man situations, giving their quarterbacks few (if any) options on most plays.

Out of 148 qualified wide receivers, here is where the Jets’ top wide receivers ranked in yards per route run against man coverage:

  • Elijah Moore: 44th (1.93) – 71st percentile
  • Braxton Berrios: 88th (1.25) – 41st percentile
  • Corey Davis: 113th (0.90) – 25th percentile
  • Keelan Cole: 116th (0.80) – 22nd percentile
  • Jamison Crowder: 120th (0.79) – 21st percentile
  • Denzel Mims: 145th (0.29) – 2nd percentile

Elijah Moore was the only Jet who consistently got himself open against man coverage. Everyone else was clamped down.

Corey Davis showed man-defeating capability in 2020, when he ranked 30th out of 147 wideouts with 2.25 yards per route run against man coverage. The Jets need him to get back to that level. Until he proves that he can, the Jets are left with Moore as the only receiver they can rely upon to beat man-to-man coverage.

New York needs another man-coverage beater to pair with Moore. Getting victories against Bill Belichick and Brian Flores will continue to be exceedingly difficult if only one receiver on the roster can exploit one-on-one matchups.

Enter Ridley.

Ridley averaged 2.98 yards per route run against man coverage in 2020, ranking 10th-best out of 147 qualifiers. He had the seventh-most total receiving yards against man coverage (512), and Atlanta throwers had a 117.1 passer rating when targeting Ridley against man coverage.

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3. Red zone

The Jets have struggled to throw the ball in the red zone this season. They have picked up a first down or a touchdown on only 30.5% of their red-zone passing attempts, which ranks 26th in the NFL.

Elijah Moore leads the Jets with four receiving touchdowns in the red zone, which is tied for 27th in the NFL. After Moore, the Jets have three players tied with two red-zone touchdowns apiece: Corey Davis, Braxton Berrios, and Ryan Griffin.

Moore has shown potential to become a “go-to guy” in the red zone, but, ultimately, nobody was reliable in the red area for the Jets over the course of the entire season.

Ridley can be what the Jets are missing in this facet of the game, too.

From 2018-20, Ridley tied for seventh in the NFL (fifth among wide receivers) with 17 receiving touchdowns in the red zone.

It’s not as if the Falcons force-fed Ridley in the red zone. He is one of the league’s most efficient players in that area.

Ridley only placed 27th with 39 red-zone targets over that span. With 17 touchdowns on that relatively small diet of targets, he scored on a whopping 43.6% of his red-zone targets, which ranked fourth-best among wide receivers with at least 20 red-zone targets.

Calvin Ridley fills important holes for the New York Jets

If Calvin Ridley actually does become available, Douglas and the Jets would be wise to consider making an aggressive offer for him. Ridley is not only a great player, but his strengths are exactly what the Jets lack at the wide receiver position.

This is all contingent on things going well for Ridley off the field, of course. We do not know whether or not he is ready to get back on the field or if he ever will be. The Jets – or whoever deals for Ridley – need to be certain that he is ready to play before investing in him. Mental health is something that should be taken extremely seriously.

From purely an on-field perspective, though, Ridley makes all the sense in the world for New York.

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Michael Nania is the best analytical New York Jets mind in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania@jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania

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EagleFangFootball
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EagleFangFootball

Mentally is very weak for a player that has questionable deserve that’s not a perfect fit for Joe Douglas

JetOrange
Member
JetOrange

Not sure Ridley would be happy here. Can’t seeing him getting enough touches. The Jets will be a running team that will spread the ball around in the passing game.

verge tibbs
Member
verge tibbs

Ok, so, heres the thing. Mental health is such a tremendously broad and basically an infinite spectrum at this time. It could be a minor or easily addressable issue. Or it could be a life threatening issue. Or it could be an issue that is a lifelong battle with peaks and valleys. Point is, id stay away. Or JD would need a hell of a lot of info and assurance that this guys not ever gonna quit on his team midseason again. Atlanta probably made the playoffs if this guy played. Imagine the jets trade a 1st for him, he… Read more »

Jets71
Member
Jets71

The production on the field is there, what’s going on off the field is unsettled. I’m not saying he can’t come back and be good, but I’m not sure giving a young QB, who still has a lot to prove an unreliable WR is the right move here. I think they use one of those first rounds picks and draft a sud, who fits their mold and he can grow with Zach. The WR group was underwhelming this year, I also think they really need to take a hard look at the WR coach and passing game coordinator (which I… Read more »

JetOrange
Member
JetOrange

Interesting to see the changes in this coaching staff, which should happen soon , in preparation of FA and the draft. Saleh & Douglas seem to hold coaches accountable.

verge tibbs
Member
verge tibbs

I see all the reasons he’d fit perfect, its enticing. But this guy left his team near the beginning part of season and still hasnt even given them an approximate return date. That doesnt sound like a guy you can count on. He’s in the middle of it with no end in sight. The problem for JD i think may be more that he left his team midseason for MONTHS and now talking about parting ways. No way man. Big risk at turning the jets right back into a circus show. I hope woody johnson ignores jets twitter and doesnt… Read more »

verge tibbs
Member
verge tibbs

Oh yeah, totally, his on field would help zachs growth incredibly. Id be confident that the jets would be a serious threat already in 2022 with a guy with these particular talents. His strengths are drool inducing, lol.

hh11212
Member
hh11212

I agree Michael and as I posted below. We have Ulbrich and Coleman who have a history with Ridley and the Falcons. We can get good intel and make a good decision. I even proposed a swap of Fant for Ridley which benefits both teams. The Falcons RT is terrible and this gives us the high quality receiver we need to complete our WR corps.

Abencowles
Member
Abencowles

I was all about this move before reading this article and now I’m going to be upset if this doesn’t happen. Respect Ridley for taking time away from the game, there is still a stigma with mental health and I really hope he was able to figure things out. Now time to play like a Jet and win some games next year

Jimjets
Member
Jimjets

You are a believer MN. I wish I had such faith I people. But you’re a great deal younger. He just stepped away from the game for mental health reasons. Becton is not motivated to get in shape to play. Huge question marks both. I’d rather draft a kid receiver then take someone’s headache off their hands. There’s quite a few WR and OL this year.

hh11212
Member
hh11212

I like this option for the Jets. Falcons who were horrible by PFF grading on pass pro especially at RT. Trade Fant for Ridley. He would need to pass the background work we would need to do on him. But then you can focus more on defense in draft and FA.

Jimjets
Member
Jimjets

No. Keep the pick. Get a WR TE and OL piece in FA. Then draft defense

hh11212
Member
hh11212

Not sure what you mean when you say keep the pick. I didn’t give up any picks in this scenario. This is a player for player trade. Fant for Ridley.

Jimjets
Member
Jimjets

Oh! Still no. Lol. Fant showed up all year til he got hurt. Calvin had mental health issues. Don’t want or need that. What do we do next year when he quits on us. Just draft a kid who has the burning desire to play.

hh11212
Member
hh11212

Again we have Ulbrich who was on the staff the entire time he was there. Also Coleman played with him. So you can get good Intel. Remember my caveat was only if the background work comes back solid. Remember how everyone was giving up on Brandon Marshall and he became dominant player for us. If everything checks out, I am all in. Remember Fant who I really like is a one year wonder. Trade him while his value is high and get a stud WR.

Jimjets
Member
Jimjets

We will have to agree to disagree, my Jets brother in green! The main thing, and I think we can all agree on two things – our offseason could be exciting af, and we are heading in the right direction

hh11212
Member
hh11212

Agreed, will be a fun off-season to see how we ultimately decide to redo this. My guess is defense heavy in Fa, maybe grab Schultz and then get bpa in draft.

Jimjets
Member
Jimjets

Now I could live with that! I was thinking offense heavy in FA, I’d love Schultz…and get Hamilton and Dean in R1

hh11212
Member
hh11212

My logic on defense is takes less time to jell and can get it fixed quickly so if you get some proven guys in there you can fix it quick. Offense is really only a TE and Wr away. The line is plenty good enough (as we have seen the last two months) if you upgrade those two spots.

Jimjets
Member
Jimjets

Ok, and the greatest news? we have a ton of money for FA and a ton of draft picks!!!