Don’t Expect the Patriots to Re-sign Stevan Ridley


Stevan Ridley’s had a relatively quiet offseason following the Super Bowl XLIX after-party, and that’s not good news for his wallet.

The free agent running back that piled up 1,263 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012 and made fantasy owners unleash more than a few Macho Man “OOOOOH YEEEEAAAH!” cheers hasn’t been generating a whole lot of interest in free agency. According to Pro Football Talk, the only teams that have contacted him are the Dolphins, who described their visit with Ridley as “exploratory”, the Jets, who would sign just about anyone that used to play for the Patriots, and that Washington team with a stupid name. All this seems like it would point to a great New England Patriots re-signing – buying on the cheap, getting big-time production for pennies on the dollar, and scoring some points with the fans by bringing back a guy with a sweet touchdown dance? Sounds like classic Belichick and Kraft business, right?

And despite his injury this past season, his “fumbling issues” (which we’ll get to a bit later), and flashes of brilliance and futility in varying measures, the real reason New England most likely won’t resign Ridley is simple.

Running backs are cheap and plentiful in the draft, and it’s not worth it for a team to pay one on a second contract that more than doubles their cap hit. And that’s almost entirely due to the 2011 CBA.

Remember: Stevan Ridley was drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft, which was the first year that the new rookie wage scale was introduced, probably to keep dumb teams from making dumb mistakes with players like Sam Bradford and JaMarcus freaking Russell. Here’s what Ridley made in his first four seasons, as reported by our pals at Over the Cap:

2011: $375,000 base salary, $537,000 cap number.

2012: $509,250 base salary, $671,250 cap number.

2013: $643,500 base salary, $805,500 cap number.

2014: $777,750 base salary, $939,750 cap number.

That’s less than 1% of the team’s salary cap for every year that Ridley’s played. And all he’s done in those four years is put up 2,817 rushing yards, 22 rushing touchdowns, 23 receptions, and 146 receiving yards. That’s counting everything in his injury-shortened 2014 season, too, when he tore his ACL and MCL in Week 6, and splitting carries in New England’s fantasy-owner’s-nightmare timeshare backfield with everyone from Danny Woodhead to Brandon Bolden.

For comparison purposes, former Patriots running back and first-round pick Laurence Maroney had a cap hit of $2,165,000 his rookie season, and then cap hits ranging from $1,360,312 (2008) to $1,767,500 (2009) after that. Or, put it another way, one rookie Laurence Maroney on the old CBA in 2006 cost as much as four rookie Stevan Ridleys in 2011, and with enough to buy a Harley left over.

The fumbling aspect of Stevan’s game has also been spectacularly overblown. Everyone remembers Ridley dropping the ball in the 2013 AFC Championship game after Ravens safety Bernard Pollard dished out a helmet-to-helmet hit that would have laid out a brontosaurus, but guess how many times Stevan Ridley has actually fumbled the ball in his career, including the playoffs?


9 in the regular season, 2 in the playoffs (which includes the one mentioned above after Ridley was concussed on the play).

In 705 rushing attempts.

If you’re not into math, that means Ridley fumbles on less than 1% of his rushing attempts. Of course, the obvious caveat there is that you can’t fumble when most of your last two seasons are spent on the bench due to injury (2014) or because of a few untimely fumbles coupled with the timely arrival of LeGarrette Blount (2013).

The economics of re-signing a running back, Ridley or otherwise, just don’t make any sense, unless the player in question is a guy like LeSean McCoy or Marshawn Lynch, a manimal of a running back that can put a whole offense on their shoulders, make up for mediocre-to-putrid quarterback play, and occasionally drag their team into the playoffs. Not coincidentally, those teams also almost always have a quarterback playing on a rookie deal or a relatively cheap veteran deal, so they have more cash to play with at other positions.

Stevan Ridley’s a good player and, judging by his Instagram account, a legitimately cool guy with a great attitude, but the way the NFL and NFLPA set up rookie pay has made New England not re-signing him, even at veteran minimum, an economic no-brainer.