Editor's note: Our weeklong Falcons Building Blocks series starts Tuesday and focuses on five young talents who will be counted on to start a new era of sustained success. These players must hit certain marks to be included. They must be working on a rookie contract. They must be 27 or younger. They must be thriving already, with leadership qualities and potential for even better down the line. While rookies aren't preferred considering they've never played an NFL snap at this point, you'll find at least one on the list due to vast potential involved. The first installment of this analysis is focused on Calvin Ridley.
The Falcons were big Calvin Ridley fans. They coveted the Alabama receiver heading into the 2018 NFL Draft and were thanking lucky stars when he was available at No. 26 overall.
They made him a Falcon with that selection, brought him into the fold and watched him thrive. His three professional seasons have been productive, with a true breakout year coming with 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020. Most of that damage was done with Julio Jones out with a hamstring issue.
That provides great confidence that Ridley can be a true No. 1 receiver moving forward, especially with Jones recently traded to Tennessee. Having that presence in the pattern is invaluable, especially for someone in his mid-20s.
The Falcons exercised the fifth-year team option on his contract, meaning he's attached to the team through the 2022 season.
- Calvin Ridley ready to take next steps on ascending career path
- Russell Gage talks wisdom gained from Julio Jones: If you're going to make a mistake, make it at full speed
- Falcons passing remains a team strength loaded with talent and depth
- Bair: Here's why I think Calvin Ridley will move permanently into NFL's elite receiver class
Contract status, age, production and potential makes Ridley a key building block for a Falcons franchise looking to build a young foundation to usher in an era of sustained success. They need several of them to let good times roll, adding them through the NFL draft especially.
Building blocks, for the purposes of this weeklong series, have to meet certain parameters. They must be currently working on a rookie contract, with great production and an ascending career path. Those talents will be leaders of an attempted renaissance under new leaders Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith.
Ridley certainly fits that bill. He has serious star power and will be counted on to pace the Falcons passing offense.
Keeping Ridley long-term will require a major investment. Top-tier receivers make bank, and more seasons like the last one suggests Ridley's in line for a huge second contract. The Falcons should gladly pay it if he stays healthy and dominant in Smith's offensive system.
It would also be a passing of the torch. The Falcons have steadily employed top-tier receivers since 2005, when Roddy White joined the crew. The four-time Pro Bowler and former All-Pro was awesome for an extended stretch, especially when Jones arrived in 2011. It didn't take Jones long to stand on his own and start an era of individual excellence. The Falcons would be thrilled if Ridley can do the same thing and provide the dynamic and steadying presence to make the offense dangerous.
He's a talent to building around, and the Falcons should do what's required to keep him in place while constantly striving to improve the cast around him.
Next up in our Falcons Building Blocks series: A deep dive into Chris Lindstrom's ability to set longterm tone for the offensive line.