Halfway through the 2019 NFL Season, the Los Angeles Rams felt a weakness in their cornerback group, choosing to address it by trading a boatload of assets for former superstar Jacksonville Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey — who was sidelined with a “back injury” — requested a trade, citing irreconcilable differences with the front office. The Rams elected to secure what many believed was a splash move, though the addition of Ramsey must be viewed as not only the short-term boost it proved to be, but a long-term addition that should significantly improve the defense moving forward.
Ramsey is a three-time pro bowler and one-time First-Team All-Pro selection back in 2017. Not only has Ramsey been recognized as a special talent by media members, but his numbers reiterate just how dominant the eccentric cornerback has been since entering the league in 2016. Since his rookie season in 2016, Ramsey ranks 13th in interceptions with 10 and ranks 10th in pass deflections with 49 among all CB’s in the NFL.
Dating back to 2018, here are Ramsey’s in-depth statistics (courtesy of Pro Football Reference):
Rating when targeted:
The numbers may lead you to believe this season presented something of a regression from Ramsey, though a lot of that can be explained rather easily. First, Ramsey very well could have been unmotivated playing in Jacksonville in his three contests in 2019. A highly-emotional player, Ramsey made it clear he was tired of playing for a franchise lacking any offensive firepower and a consistent loser. Not only did the lack of motivation potentially play a role, but Ramsey may or may not have suffered a legitimate back injury which seemingly cleared up rather quickly once he was traded to Los Angeles. Lastly, getting traded midseason and needing to learn a new scheme, defensive coordinator’s tendencies, new teammates, and everything in between presents a major challenge.
With Ramsey being afforded the opportunity to gel with teammates and the appropriate time to learn the scheme from newly appointed Defensive Coordinator Brandon Staley this offseason, it is fair to expect a rebound season from arguably the most talented cornerback in the league.
Now, that brings me to the discussion at hand: What should the Rams do with Ramsey?
The answer to that question is incredibly simple: pay him.
The Rams didn’t trade two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick without the intent to extend Ramsey. There isn’t really a question when it comes to paying Ramsey, the only decision to be made is when is the right time. Ramsey is currently slated to play on his fifth-year option from his rookie deal, costing the Rams $13.703m in 2020.
Much has been discussed about the lack of cap space the Rams currently have. They’re currently hovering around $20m in cap space (once Over The Cap updates the retirement of S Eric Weddle).
The lack of current cap space for the Rams is very relevant as it pertains to a potential contract extension for Ramsey. Not only would they be locking in a fantastic and young talent, but extending Ramsey would allow the Rams to actually lower his 2020 cap hit, opening up a rather significant amount of cap space for a team that’s currently cap-strapped.
According to Over The Cap, a Ramsey extension would actually free somewhere in the range of $10.3m. That figure may seem excessive, and I am no cap expert, but if the Rams save even half of the figure stated, the savings could be considered significant:
But, the positives to extending Ramsey don’t end there for the Rams. Another reason — and potentially even more important than opening some cap space — for the Rams to get the extension done as soon as possible is due to the number of quality cornerbacks slated to reach free agency, or receive their own extensions.
The list includes:
Denver Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr.
Tennessee Titans CB Logan Ryan
Houston Texans CB Bradley Roby
Baltimore Ravens CB Jimmy Smith
Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones
Kansas City Chiefs CB Kendall Fuller
Detroit Lions CB Darius Slay (entering last year of deal, potential trade and extension talks)
The list is quite loaded with high-end CB talent, giving the Rams even more motivation to ramp up extension talks with Ramsey, ideally hammering out a deal that works for both sides prior to the NFL’s free agency period (March) opening up. If the Rams do elect to wait (or Ramsey’s camp does), the price tag could very well continue to rise with the CB market sure to be reset by one of the aforementioned studs reaching the open market.
Currently, the highest paid CB in the league is Miami Dolphins’ Xavien Howard. Howard received a five-year $75.25m (15.05m APY) extension with $46m in guarantees nearly one year ago. Ramsey’s next deal is sure to eclipse all of those marks, potentially coming in around $16-17m APY and $50m+ in guarantees.
With all of these extenuating factors hovering above the heads of the Rams, General Manager Les Snead (and right hand man Vice President Tony Pastoors) have to be motivated in securing a long-term deal for Jalen Ramsey. One thing to note: a lot of talking goes on between NFL teams and agents (and in turn players) at the NFL Scouting Combine. The combine is a playground notorious for sparking the fire between the two sides at the negotiation table.
Keep your eyes on a potential record-setting extension on the horizon for Jalen Ramsey and the Rams.