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WR Calvin Ridley: 'I really wanted to be with' Jaguars but Titans had 'that other side for me'

Calvin Ridley delivered perhaps the biggest surprise of early free agency by joining the Titans.

Choosing to pass on a re-up with the Jaguars, Ridley instead saw greener pastures with the AFC South's last-place finisher, Tennessee, in part because of the role he hoped to play in helping the team back to contender status.

"I think, playing them twice a year, I was watching them and looking at the things they did have," Ridley said Friday during his introductory news conference. "I know that D-Hop's (DeAndre Hopkins) here -- and I know that I wanted to play with another receiver on the other side that could help me do what I do best. I know that they had a really good defense and were upcoming and stuff. I was looking into it. I really wanted to be with the Jags, but there's a lot of things that wasn't working out for me and then I think the Titans had that other side for me, so I chose the Titans. Obviously, the money was pretty good, so I went with that."

In terms of the side of the equation that the Titans fulfill for Ridley -- his desired role -- the wideout is intent on increasing the pull of his orbit for an offense in need.

"Jacksonville, they have a lot of weapons over there and sometimes when I was there, I was like, feeling a little weird because I was always someone who wants the ball and I want to crack the game for us," he said. "I want to be the guy who's, you know -- keep me into the game all game. So, I was like, really, coming over here and I want to do my thing, take over. I want to bring this team, shoot this team through the roof in any way I can to help."

The weapons Ridley is leaving behind in Jacksonville include tight end Evan Engram, running back Travis Etienne and wide receivers Zay Jones and Christian Kirk -- plus the newly arrived Gabe Davis. It's a formidable crew, but Ridley held his own during his lone season with the Jags.

He played all 17 games in 2023 after not seeing any NFL action since Oct. 24, 2021 due to a leave of absence midway through that campaign and a full-year suspension for gambling handed down the following offseason.

While shaking off the rust, Ridley placed second on the Jags with 76 receptions and led the offense with 1,016 receiving yards. His eight touchdown catches doubled the next-best total, Engram's four. He delivered that output while playing 943 (84.6%) of the team's offensive snaps, the most among Jacksonville wideouts by 390 plays.

Yet still, Ridley desires to take on more.

He'll do so opposite Hopkins, who managed to rebound for the seventh 1,000-yard receiving season of his 11-year career after two down campaigns, with fellow newcomer Tony Pollard and second-year back Tyjae Spears hoping to provide pop as a backfield tandem replacing the great Derrick Henry.

Coming in and keying an ascent for Tennessee's offense, which ranked 27th in points and 28th in yards in 2023, will be a task that requires Ridley to regain consistency in his age-29 season.

The wideout had some breakout games with Jacksonville, eclipsing 100 receiving yards four times, but he had double as many duds. He disappeared for large swaths of his comeback season, finishing with under 40 yards in nine contests.

Whether better balance comes with a full year back in the mix -- or even thanks to avoiding a season and a half of high-speed collisions in the middle of his prime -- Ridley has every confidence in his ability to deliver.

"I'm 29 on paper, but I'm probably like 25, for real, to be honest with you," he said. "And it's not because of the two years. The two years off did help, but I'm really like 25 years old in real life. Ya'll gon' see -- I can run with the youngest; I can run with the oldest, I can run all day, I can play all day. I love football, man. This is all I ever did, pretty much. This is all I do."

That's exactly what the Titans are banking on. It's why they offered him $92 million over the next four years.

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