JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Doug Pederson believes the Jaguars’ trade for suspended wide receiver Calvin Ridley will improve the team. Eventually. Pederson said that he wouldn’t know for sure until the league clears the former Falcons’ first-round pick to return to play.
The NFL suspended Ridley in March for betting on games during the 2021 season. The suspension was announced as indefinite. Until the league reinstates Ridley, the Jaguars can’t even have a conversation with him.
“We won’t know what we have until the league clears him,” Pederson said. “We understand that but at the same time, we feel like we’re getting a really good football player and adding (him) to a good room and great leaders in that room that will embrace him when he finally gets here.”
At some point, Ridley may be able to help Trevor Lawrence’s progress, but it won’t be until at least next season. When Ridley returns, how much he plays and whether the Jaguars sign him to an extension will impact the compensation the Jaguars will send to the Falcons.
“We’re going to always look to add talent to this roster any way possible, any shape or form,” Pederson said. “I feel like we’ve done that now.”
There is a risk to trading for Ridley, but Pederson said he believed the risk was worth it. The deal was structured so that the better Ridley does for the Jaguars, the more the Jaguars will send to the Falcons.
“He’s very talented and a great route runner, good speed. Good kid,” Pederson said. “You know, just all the things I can remember watching, you know, even back then, and now. And, again, it’s adding a really good talented player to an already talented group,”
In Jacksonville, Ridley will be reunited with a college teammate, left tackle Cam Robinson, with whom he played at Alabama. Robinson said he has already reached out to Ridley to welcome him to the Jaguars.
“I think he’ll fit in good,” Robinson said. “He’s a guy that genuinely loves football. He’s a guy that genuinely loves what he does. And he loves what goes into being a good player as well. So anytime you get those types of players, those types of players are easy to mesh with.”
While the timing of Ridley’s arrival is still up in the air, there is another component to consider: how long it will take him to get back into the groove of playing football after at least a season away from the field.
“You kind of have to get out there and play and practice long drives and get your legs back,” said wide receiver Christian Kirk. “You can only train so much, but you can’t recreate playing against man coverage five snaps in a row and that physical strain on your body.”
Lawrence said he didn’t have a previous relationship with Ridley but was excited about adding a player of his talent to the offense.
“I’ve watched him and he’s a great player. So obviously, that’s exciting, moving forward,” Lawrence said. “I’ve heard some good things from people that know him...and heard he loves the game. And obviously, you watch his tape, it speaks for itself. So that’ll be an exciting thing next season to look forward to.”
While most of the questions asked of Pederson in his Wednesday press conference centered around Ridley, the issue at hand for the Jaguars in Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders. With nine games to play in the season, the Jaguars are mired in a five-game losing streak and Lawrence is facing more criticism than he ever has.
Pederson said he falls back on his experience coaching Carson Wentz in Philadelphia, who also came under fire, to find advice to give Lawrence.
“If you want (the criticism) to go away, you start working on it, and you work on it to go away,” Pederson said. “That’s something that I can help him with. I know the staff can help him with and try to put most of this behind him. Trevor does a nice job of sort of compartmentalizing things and keeping things on the back burner and just focusing on his job and, and improving,”
In his second season in the NFL, Lawrence has thrown 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also lost four fumbles in a rain-soaked game in Philadelphia. The timing of the miscues has cost the Jaguars points and wins, including last week when his two interceptions were key moments in the Jaguars’ loss to the Broncos.