Falcons GM on Calvin Ridley's Future: 'Up to This Point, Nothing Has Changed'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 12, 2022

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 24: Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) during the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Miami Dolphins on October 24, 2021 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot reaffirmed the franchise's commitment to Calvin Ridley after the fourth-year wideout stepped away from the NFL midway through the 2021 season.

Fontenot told reporters Tuesday that "up to this point, nothing has changed" and people shouldn't assume Atlanta is planning to be without Ridley in 2022.

"Like I said, we handle each situation individually," he said. "There are so many variables we deal with. We’re going to try to add to every position this offseason."

Ridley made five appearances for the Falcons this past season, catching 31 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns. He was absent for the team's 19-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 8 and announced that day he was going to take a break to focus on his mental health:

CALVIN RIDLEY @CalvinRidley1

<a href="https://t.co/q7OOoAKkdV">pic.twitter.com/q7OOoAKkdV</a>

The team placed him on the reserve/non-football injury list the following week.

In his last full season, Ridley finished with 90 receptions, 1,374 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He's under contract with Atlanta for 2022 and due to earn $11.1 million. Especially with Julio Jones gone, the 27-year-old occupies a sizable role in the passing game.

However, Ridley's desire to continue playing altogether is unclear since he has said little since his October announcement. And if he does want to return, he may prefer to start over with a new organization.

The Falcons finished 7-10 and third in the NFC South. While they should be rebuilding, they're stuck between tanking and contending because a 36-year-old Matt Ryan will carry a $48.7 million cap hit next season.

With Ryan under center, you don't necessarily want to tear the roster down to the studs and put a guaranteed loser on the field in his final years. At the same time, the 2016 NFL MVP and five-time Pro Bowler is clearly past his best, and his contract, which runs through 2023, makes it difficult to fill out the rest of the roster.

Trading Ridley now would allow Fontenot, in his second year as GM, to get multiple assets back to further his long-term plans. Ridley, meanwhile, could have a clean slate for 2022.