For most of the football season and the offseason, the biggest cloud looming over the Falcons was the future of wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who missed most of the season focusing on his mental health. There were reports that the Falcons and Ridley were nearing a split, but Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith stood pat that there were no updates on Ridley's situation.
Then on Mar. 7, the league announced that they would be suspending Ridley for at least the 2022 NFL season for violating its gambling policy. This meant Ridley's $11.16 million cap hit will come off the books for the Falcons in 2022 and will return when he's reinstated by the league.
Fontenot said it was a surprise to everyone in the Falcons organization when they received a call on Feb. 9 that Ridley was being investigated.
"We were talking to other teams and having some discussions," Fontenot said, "and yet we got that call and had to take a step back."
Ridley's situation has fallen to the proverbial back-burner as the Falcons explored trading for now-Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson and traded longtime quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts in the past week. Still, if Ridley was traded, the Falcons might be looking at a much different situation heading into the draft.
One of the best receivers in the NFL, the Falcons may have been able to secure a first for Ridley from a team looking for a star to upgrade their receiving corps. They could have used that pick to draft a quarterback for the future or another high-level talent to add to a roster with many needs.
Instead, the Falcons will have to wait until 2023, and now that Fontenot and Smith have acknowledged that they were looking to move Ridley, his future in Atlanta seems unlikely.
"[Calvin is] on our roster right now, and we continue to support and whatever way we can and do the best that we can and how the future looks; we don't know," Fontenot said. "That's a long time from now. And so we'll see what happens with that. But we've been transparent really with all the information on Calvin. We've been transparent with everything with him. And we'll see where that goes."