It’s been more than two weeks since Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank commented on wide receiver Calvin Ridley. But still, the true ramifications of Blank’s comments have not come to fruition.
Blank’s heart was in the right place on Feb. 9 when he offered support for Atlanta’s top wide receiver, who announced during a game, a rivalry matchup with the Carolina Panthers on Halloween, by the way, that he was leaving the team to work on his mental health.
As good of a deed as it may have been for Blank to publicly support the receiver, it still may backfire.
“We love the young man,” Blank told Atlantafalcons.com. “He has had a great history in Atlanta. We’d love him to stay in Atlanta. Whether or not he wants to do that — he may decide that he wants a fresh start someplace else. We don’t know that. I don’t know that. I don’t have information to indicate that, but we’ll see how that plays out.
“We’ve been totally supportive in every way that we can be, both emotionally and financially in working with him as well as his agent. We’ll see, but I’m mostly concerned about him as a human being.”
It was good for Blank to say something positive about Ridley. The two sides remained so silence about each other for so long, reporters began speculating in January that a Falcons-Ridley reunion was not possible.
Blank’s comments say a reunion is more than possible. In fact, the Falcons remain steadfast in their attempt to keep Ridley.
Why wouldn’t they? The next best receiver Atlanta has under contract for next season is Frank Darby.
If the Falcons and Ridley end in a divorce, Atlanta fans can look back at Blank’s comments and know the team did what it could to keep him. But in the process of letting the public know that, Blank may have inadvertently lowered Ridley’s trade value.
Should Ridley decide he does want the aforementioned fresh start, and the Falcons begin shopping him, other teams will likely know Atlanta exhausted all avenues to keep him but can’t. Blank’s comments should indicate to other general managers that if Ridley becomes available, it’s by his choice. Not the team’s choice.
The Falcons will have no leverage in that situation.
Atlanta fans were disappointed when Julio Jones fetched just a 2022 second-round pick. The Falcons couldn’t land a first-rounder for Jones for several reasons — his cap hit, age, injury history — but another underlining reason was his unplanned interview with Shannon Sharpe on FS1’s Undisputed, where he said “I’m outta there.”
Until that point, the Jones trade rumors were mostly speculation. But after that interview, the Falcons were placed into a position where the team almost had to deal Jones. He wanted out, and that lowered the asking price.
In January, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler wrote that one league executive told him the Falcons could expect a second-round pick in exchange for Ridley. Fowler also wrote that second-rounder could turn into a first based on Ridley’s performance.
Ridley hasn’t been as productive as Jones was before he was traded. But Ridley is younger and possesses a much more favorable contract.
Ridley posted 90 catches for 1,374 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2020. Fowler reported in January the trade market “would be robust” if he’s made available.
The next question becomes whether that remains the case if the Falcons enter a situation where they have to trade Ridley.