Arbella Early Edition

Perry: Why Patriots should pursue Calvin Ridley in free agency

Is now the time to make an "explosive" upgrade at wide receiver?

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New head coach Jerod Mayo said it himself: The New England Patriots have cash to "burn" this offseason.

The Patriots enter the offseason with $66 million in cap space (fourth-most in the NFL, per Over The Cap) and could free up even more money if they part ways with cornerback J.C. Jackson, who carries a $14.4 million cap hit for 2024. That's good news, because New England has a host of roster needs -- especially on offense after averaging a league-worst 13.9 points per game in 2023.

If the Patriots use their No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft on a quarterback -- one of USC's Caleb Williams, UNC's Drake Maye and LSU's Jayden Daniels will be available to them -- then free agency could be where they add a dynamic wide receiver or solid offensive tackle.

Tee Higgins has been linked to the Patriots in the past, but it's possible the Bengals use their franchise tag on the star wide receiver to keep him in Cincinnati. If that's the case, our Phil Perry believes the Patriots should set their sights on another pending free agent: Jacksonville Jaguars wideout Calvin Ridley.

"I really like Calvin Ridley," Perry said Monday on NBC Sports Boston's Arbella Early Edition "... He came back this year and had a 1,000-yard season in Jacksonville. He is an explosive player."

Ridley posted impressive stats over his first three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2020. He played just five total games over the next three seasons, however, stepping away from the team in October 2021 due to mental health reasons and earning a year-long suspension in 2022 for betting on NFL games.

While Ridley thrived in his first full season with the Jaguars in 2023 -- 76 catches for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns -- Perry believes the 29-year-old's age and recent track record could lower his price tag slightly, which should pique the Patriots' interest.

"He's now in his seventh season. I just don't think he's going to command like $20 million a year," Perry said of Ridley. "He might cost somewhere around $15 or $16 million a year, and that to me would be a tremendous upgrade for your receiver corps, and you're not feeling like you have to reach for a receiver in the draft if the guys you like aren't necessarily there in the first or second round."

The Patriots historically haven't spent big at the receiver position, but that was with Bill Belichick calling the shots. Ridley immediately would become the No. 1 receiver in a group currently led by DeMario Douglas, JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker and Tyquan Thornton (Kendrick Bourne is a pending free agent), and if New England wants to make drastic improvements on offense, it might require a drastic move like signing Ridley.

Check out the video below for more from Perry on which current players the Patriots should re-sign, and who else they should pursue in free agency.

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