JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and digital reporter/host Ashlyn Sullivan offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they prepare to play the Las Vegas Raiders in a 2022 Week 9 game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer
- A worthwhile risk. The major Jaguars news of the week has nothing to do with Sunday's game and everything to do with the future, with the team on Tuesday trading two draft selections to the Atlanta Falcons for wide receiver Calvin Ridley. As with any trade, there is risk involved. Ridley currently is serving an NFL suspension for betting on NFL games – including those involving the Falcons. He also stepped away from the game in 2021 for mental-health reasons. He is eligible to apply for reinstatement on or after February 15, 2023, and will have been away from the NFL for nearly two season when the 2023 season begins. But Ridley is a big-time, No. 1 wide receiver when healthy and at 27 still very much in his prime – and the Jaguars very much need that sort of player. Significant to analyzing this move is the Jaguars in the deal reportedly traded a 2023 fifth-round draft selection and a conditional 2024 fourth-round selection that could become a second-round selection. That means they still have their first-round selection in 2023, and figure to have multiple needs in the coming offseason – particularly at cornerback and perhaps elsewhere. Acquiring a potential elite wide receiver/playmaker without giving up that first-round equity could make this a critical trade as the Jaguars rebuild this roster.
- Adding playmakers. The most important storyline around this franchise remains quarterback Trevor Lawrence – and while his struggles this past Sunday in a loss to the Denver Broncos were concerning, belief in the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft remains strong. The next step in the building process is adding playmakers around the roster. Ridley has potential to be such a player, and his addition should help wide receiver Christian Kirk inside. Running back Travis Etienne Jr. is showing in recent weeks big-play ability, and a 2023 trio of Kirk/Etienne/Ridley could give the Jaguars more explosiveness at the offensive skill positions than they have had in some time. Lawrence next season must take a step in Head Coach Doug Pederson's offensive system. He needs playmakers around him to make that step and there certainly appear to be more of those on the roster than there were a month ago.
Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent…
- Alpha receivers don't hit the market. That's why I like the Ridley move by General Manager Trent Baalke. Look back to last winter when the Green Bay Packers franchise-tagged wide receiver Davante Adams, then traded him for first- and second-round picks and gave him a $141 million dollar contract. The Kansas City Chiefs likewise last offseason traded wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins for a first-, second-, two fourth- and a sixth-round selection – plus the Dolphins rewarded Hill with a mega-contract that pays $30 million annually. The Jaguars in Ridley are getting a 27-year-old receiver who has alpha written all over him for just a fifth-round pick in 2023 and an additional pick in 2024; he'll cost $11 million. There is risk he won't be reinstated when he applies, but my educated guess is the Jaguars did their homework and felt good about taking this chance. In his last full season – 2020 – he caught 90 passes for nearly 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns. That's a swing for the fences that is well worth taking, especially with a young quarterback entering his pivotal third NFL season.
- Some faith is required. If you look at how this team is competing, it's clear it's different than past versions. I have faith that Lawrence is who I think he is. Pederson and his staff inherited a project; the pain they're experiencing right now is part of the job. If you can't see past a hole at cornerback that has cost them dearly twice in the last three games – and a pair of rookie linebackers who have struggled against mobile quarterbacks in the last five weeks – I'm not sure I can convince you. I have faith in Pederson based on what he has done in his career and my conversations with him. He wants to win every week, but he knows his roster isn't complete and that it will take a nearly flawless performance. So far they've had only two of those performances. They can't get anxious or let knee-jerk reactions rule the day. This franchise has had far too much of that in its history. A little faith in two highly regarded men isn't too much to ask. Neither is a little patience. Though you may not have it, I hope both of them do.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Jaguars Team Reporter…
- For the future. The Ridley trade was discussed somewhat Wednesday. Pederson joked with media that there is actually a game to talk about this week – because all anyone wanted to talk about was the addition of Ridley. Yes, coaches and players are excited for the proven talent Ridley will bring, but all know this is a move for future and would rather discuss the nine games remaining this season. "Being a quarterback, you can't not be excited about that," Lawrence said of Ridley. "Right now, we're focused on the rest of the season that's ahead of us."
- Paying off. Somewhat. We are sadly at the point of the season where we talk about keeping the character of the locker room together and not pointing fingers. Those conversations come with a five-game losing streak. Tight end Dan Arnold said it best Wednesday, insinuating any of players who went through the Urban Meyer debacle last season can handle anything thrown their way this season. The efforts of Baalke and Pederson to bring high-character guys into the locker room through free agency and the draft are paying off. Players such as wide receiver Zay Jones, Kirk and Lawrence are holding this together. That's why you spend big money on good people: there is no drama when adversity hits. Jones told me Thursday he believes that attitude will bring the Jaguars that much closer to snapping this losing streak.