The Jaguars want WR Calvin Ridley back, but is it possible?

Calvin Ridley had 1,016 receiving yards with eight touchdowns in 2023, his most in a season since 2020. As a member of the Falcons, he missed most of the 2021 season with injury and all of the 2022 season serving a gambling suspension. Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Since the 2023 season ended, Jacksonville Jaguars GM Trent Baalke and coach Doug Pederson have been unwavering: They want to bring wide receiver Calvin Ridley back -- if possible.

Ridley, whom the Jaguars acquired in 2022 from the Atlanta Falcons, led the team with 1,016 yards and eight receiving touchdowns in 2023.

"He was a great addition to our offense," Pederson said. "Obviously would love to get him back if possible. He adds an element of speed down the field that we need."

But the Jaguars need to create cap space if they're going to sign Ridley, along with outside linebacker Josh Allen and a few other players, in free agency and still have room for their rookie class.

The NFL announced last week that the salary cap for 2024 would jump to $255.4 million, which gives the Jaguars an additional $13 million more than originally projected. They now have $23.5 million in salary cap space for 2024, per Roster Management System.

"I don't think it really changes anything," Baalke said about the salary cap during his news conference at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on Tuesday. "Obviously it affects everybody the same way. So it's not like it creates an advantage or a disadvantage for us."

Complicating things a bit for the Jaguars, however, is Allen's situation. If the Jaguars are unable to work out an extension with Allen and have to use the franchise tag, he would have a fully guaranteed salary of $24 million in 2024, and it would all count against the cap. If they reach a deal on an extension, though, that could allow them to structure the contract in a way that would lessen the cap hit this season and give them more room to sign Ridley.

Ridley's situation is also tricky, and timing could be important in the decision. Per the terms of their trade with Atlanta to bring Ridley to Jacksonville, if the Jaguars sign Ridley to an extension, they have to send a second-round pick to the Falcons. If they don't sign him to an extension, they send the Falcons a third-round pick instead.

In order to keep their second-round pick, they have to let Ridley's current contract expire and allow him to become a free agent. That presents a risk because that would allow Ridley's camp to negotiate with other teams and work out a deal the Jaguars aren't willing or able to match.

However, Baalke says he's not focused on that.

"We're not real concerned with that, whether it's a second- or a third-round [pick]," Baalke said. "We're just going to work with the player and see if we can come to an agreement. Whether that's before that compensation changes or not, that remains to be seen, but we're more focused on the player. ...

"I had a meeting with Calvin the other day in my office, had a great talk with Calvin, know exactly where he's at, and then he knows where we're at."

Per Spotrac, Ridley's market value is in the range of $17 million annually, but the contract could be structured so the cap hit isn't as high in the first year.

Pederson isn't focusing on those numbers when it comes to Ridley, though. He's thinking more about what Ridley could potentially do in his second year in the Jaguars' offense.

Among the other notable topics that Pederson and Baalke discussed during media access at the combine Tuesday were Allen's situation and what the offensive line might look like in 2024.

Baalke said he had a meeting scheduled later that evening with Allen's agent to continue what he called ongoing talks about an extension for the team's 2019 first-round pick. However, he wouldn't say if his plan was to use the franchise tag if the sides were unable to come to an agreement by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, which is the deadline for teams to apply the franchise tag to a player.

"I don't want to speculate on that," Baalke said. "We've got a week, a little over a week, to work with here. We're going to work diligently with his agent to try to come to a resolution on this thing. So that's where our focus is right now."

Allen is coming off the best season of his career -- with a franchise-record 17.5 sacks (tied for second in the NFL) to prove it. He ranks sixth in pressures (228) and is tied for 10th in sacks (32) in the NFL over the past three seasons. Allen's 45 sacks are second on the team's career list, trailing leader Tony Brackens by 10 (55).

If the Jaguars franchise-tag Allen and the sides do not agree on a new contract by July 15, he will be forced to play the 2024 season on the tag. If Allen chooses not to sign the franchise tag, he will be ineligible to play for any other team in 2024.

As for the offensive line, there might not be the major changes that some expected. Left tackle Cam Robinson has one more season remaining on the extension he signed in 2022, and Baalke said speculation about the team releasing Robinson to save $17.75 million was misguided.

"I don't know where the ambiguity was," Baalke said. "He's under contract and the expectation is that he will be back."

Robinson was suspended for the first four games of the 2023 season for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy and then missed four games later in the season because of a knee injury. Pederson said the Jaguars missed something when Robinson wasn't in the lineup, and he needs to be there for all 17 games this season.

"Cam brings an edge. Cam brings a physicality to the offensive line," Pederson said. "He's like Trevor [Lawrence]. He understands that his role is to help this team win and can't put the team, can't put the players, can't put us in the situations that he did last year. The injuries are out of everybody's control. Talking about the suspension. It's about being a pro."

Baalke also said the Jaguars want to re-sign left guard Ezra Cleveland, whom they acquired from Minnesota in a midseason trade, which would stabilize the left side of the offensive line. Baalke said he's meeting with Cleveland's agent later this week.