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Calvin Ridley Update: Falcons WR remains unavailable in 2021

What are the latest updates regarding the status of Calvin Ridley as the Atlanta Falcons WR remains away from the team in 2021?

The Atlanta Falcons have been without star WR Calvin Ridley since Week 8 of the 2021 NFL season. There are no official updates regarding Ridley’s status since he was placed on the non-football injury (NFI) list on October 31. Ridley has taken time away from the game to look after his mental well-being.

What is the latest update regarding Calvin Ridley’s availability for the Atlanta Falcons?

Somewhat surprisingly, the Falcons remain in the NFC playoff race. Getting Ridley back on the field would be a huge boost. However, since he was placed on the NFI list on October 31, there are no official updates on his status. Ridley is now eligible to return whenever, but that does not seem likely in the near future.

After their Week 12 game against the Jaguars, Atlanta’s head coach Arthur Smith was asked about Ridley’s status. He responded by saying he would not predict anything. That statement from Smith sums up the situation for a player (or any person, for that matter) trying to get in a better spot with their mental health. There is simply no timeline that can be put on it.

We have also not heard from Ridley since his social media post, explaining that he was stepping away back on October 31.

These past few weeks have been very challenging and as much as I’d like to be on the field competing with my teammates, I need to step away from football at this time and focus on my mental wellbeing. This will help me be the best version of myself now and in the future. I want to thank my teammates, the entire Atlanta Falcons organization, our great fans, my friends, and my family for all of their support during this time.

What does Ridley’s absence mean for the Falcons?

While the focus should rightly be on Ridley’s mental well-being, his absence has business and financial implications. There is no real clarity about what happens to contracts if a player steps away midseason. However, the expectation is that 2021 will count as the fourth season of Ridley’s rookie contract.

The wording of the CBA is complicated. It states, “A player on N-F/I who is in the final year of his contract (including an option year) will have his contract tolled. However, if the player is physically able to perform his football services on or before the sixth regular season game, the Club must pay the player his negotiated Paragraph 5 Salary (pro rata) for the balance of the season in order to toll such player’s contract.”

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Technically, Ridley is in the final year of his original rookie contract. However, the Falcons exercised his fifth-year option ahead of the 2021 season, making that his final year. Therefore, 2021 will count as a standard season. Ridley would likely return in 2022 on his fifth-year option salary ($11,116,000).

Given that Ridley is earning just under $2 million in 2021, that impacts the Falcons’ salary cap in 2022. It also raises an additional question about whether Ridley is being paid while on the NFI list in 2021.

Do teams have to pay players on the NFI list?

The simple answer is no, teams do not have to pay a player on the NFI list. Article 20, Section 3 of the CBA states (with emphasis added): “A player who is placed on a Nonfootball Injury or Illness list (“N-F/I”) will not be entitled to any compensation under his contract while on such list but, except as provided below, his contract will continue to run while in such status.”

Teams aren’t expected to pay a player’s salary while on the NFI list, but the expectation is different with Atlanta. The situation would be different if Ridley were absent from the team because of a hobby. However, when a player steps away to improve mental well-being, the thought process is teams will continue to pay them.

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.

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