With Stevan Ridley now done for the year with an ACL/MCL injury that is going to require surgery and a significant amount of rehab, we get to ask ourselves the question that we would have been asking anyway come mid-February or so:
Is Ridley done in New England?
Both he and Shane Vereen are entering into a contract year, and while the Patriots very well could have had both backs in their long-term plans, the fact of the matter is that there are other players who are going to need deals this offseason, and the general consensus was that 2014 could be Ridley's last year as a Patriot anyway . Now, with this looming injury, those odds seem to have increased.
While it seems that players are returning as strong as ever from ACL surgery these days, that doesn't mitigate the risk that involves giving a multi-year deal to a guy coming off a major injury. Plenty of running backs, even those who didn't just blow out their knee, fall of a cliff between one season and the next, and locking any back up long-term is a risk. To do that with Ridley, who has been good, but not great, during his time in New England, just doesn't seem like the Patriots' MO. Of course, should they opt not to resign him in the offseason, the narrative will be how the stingy Patriots left one of their own out to dry and how they uncaringly discard players who are no longer of use to them, but the bottom line is that Ridley may very well have been on his way out the door after this year anyway, and his absence for the rest of 2014 will just give the front office more time to see if there is anyone in-house who can replace him, or if they should turn their attention elsewhere via free agency or the draft.
On the flip-side, this injury may end up providing the Patriots with an opportunity to keep Ridley with the team for significantly less than he might have commanded had he not gone down. Perhaps they offer him a Jeremy Maclin-style deal that would keep Ridley on the team for one year without too much of a financial commitment from the front office. A year-long "prove it" style contract could benefit both teams, as New England would get their power runner back for another season, and Ridley would have a year in the only pro system that he knows to showcase his skills and exhibit that the injury hasn't impacted his abilities as a runner. Should he come back good as new, he can then look for a longer term deal after the 2015 season.
Of course, all of this is up in the air right now, and all that really matters at this juncture is wishing Ridley a speedy recovery and hoping for the best. But the question is now on the table, and Stevan Ridley may very well have played his last down in a Patriots uniform.