I am confident that the Los Angeles Rams will sign Jalen Ramsey to a contract extension and that they will do so within the next two weeks. Anything else would be illogical, even if not impossible. Would it be feasible for a writer to be able to guesstimate when the sources would leak through an NFL approved channel like Ian Rapoport and/or Michael Silver, including what the annual average value of the deal would be?
In cases of expected extensions for NFL superstars, yes. In the case of a star player whose talent, contract negotiations and local house hunting missions have been showcased on an NFL-produced television show with three episodes left to go? Hell yes.
Despite uncertainty with the economy and the world, the league knows that it is still safe and wise for them to continue spending, so nothing could stop more record deals from hitting the table in 2020. That includes a $45 million AAV for Patrick Mahomes, $29.5 million AAV for Ryan Tannehill, $27 million AAV for Joey Bosa, $25 million AAV for Myles Garrett, $20 million AAV for Chris Jones and Amari Cooper, and a “market busting” $15 million at the tight end position for George Kittle.
More contracts will be announced over the next two weeks and I believe Jalen Ramsey will be among those deals, if not being the last “record-sized deal” of the offseason. We can easily guesstimate when and for how much.
The first thing you have to have is confidence that it will be done. You can’t hit home runs if you’re swinging for singles*, so aim high. In the weeks leading up to Kittle’s extension with the 49ers, GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan both expressed optimism that a deal was getting done before the season and Lynch called it “silly” to not do so.
Well, it’s been a little over two weeks since Les Snead said “We gave up two first rounders to bring in that caliber of player” in reference to whether or not extension talks would lead to a deal.
So it was about three weeks between Lynch’s “silly” comment and Kittle’s contract. Why not a fair estimate of three weeks between Snead’s comment and a Ramsey contract?
That would put a deal on the table around Aug. 24. And that’s actually perfect because it’s what I would call the logical “floor” of a Ramsey contract — which I propose will be reported by Rapoport and Silver “jointly” sometime between 8/24 and 9/3.
The number one reason would be recent examples of Rams signing big contract extensions. The team extended Aaron Donald to a six-year, $135 million extension on Aug. 31, 2018 and the story “broke” through Rapoport.
For the #Rams and DT Aaron Donald, it’s a 6-year extension worth $135M with $87M guaranteed. He gets a $40M signing bonus.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 31, 2018
Cut to one year later and the Rams extend Jared Goff to a four-year, $134 million extension on Sept. 3, 2019 and the story comes via Rapoport and Silver jointly. A day later they announced a deal for Tyler Higbee through Rapoport again.
While the Rams did not extend players like Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks at this time of year, they did so before training camp started. LA is clearly deadset on extending Ramsey, Ramsey is clearly motivated to sign his own record-setting contract to remain in the city as he’s house hunting, and they could have done this deal at any time. But recent history would show that once training camp starts, extensions can often roll out at the end of August, early September.
That’s when I could expect Ramsey’s deal to be announced but there’s another variable in 2020 that I think has motivated the team’s timing with regards to the extension: Hard Knocks.
It is very important to the NFL that pro football works in Los Angeles. Uncharacteristic of past seasons, the league-produced program is splitting focus between two teams and highlighting current superstars over players fighting to be player 53 — and they’re not being subtle about the Jalen Ramsey season story arc.
Episode 1 - Ramsey walks out of a Zoom, gives Hard Knocks something to show in regards to his deal.
Episode 2 - Ramsey is house hunting.
Episode 3 - ???
I do not expect the Rams to sign Ramsey this week because I don’t think a TV producer would want to wrap up all the exciting elements of that season early unless they were running Game of Thrones. You may be saying to yourself, “But HBO isn’t running the Rams” and you’re absolutely right but this is a joint — apropos — production between HBO, the NFL, and the LA Rams. Everyone gets something out of this and what the Rams want to say is, “Watch our star cornerback sign his contract to keep him in Los Angeles well past this crazy year we’re having!” and they want to say it when it will matter most.
Which I think will be Episode 5 but it could be Episode 4.
Hard Knocks, remaining episodes:
If Ramsey’s deal is announced via Rapoport and Silver on Monday, Aug. 24, then they’ll be able to reserve it past Tuesday’s show while still teasing it in the “Watch what happens next week on Hard Knocks” at the end of the episode.
This is just me guessing — THIS IS ALL JUST ME GUESSING — but Episode 3 could show Ramsey relating on being a superstar with Aaron Donald or hamming it up some more with Donte Deayon. Maybe something comes up that puts Ramsey’s future with the team in mild doubt, heightening the stakes for the big reveal at the end of the year. We could also see further follow up on the house hunting or interactions with the media. Maybe Ramsey goes back on a Zoom this week or next and gets along splendidly with people and we can put a happy bow on that story too.
But it would make even more sense for the Rams to wait one more week after that.
Just like the last and only defensive superstar to sign an extension with LA in the Sean McVay era, Ramsey’s contract could be announced by Rapoport and Silver on Aug. 31. Then they run episode four the next day, maybe pulling back on the Ramsey story a bit because he’ll already be in the news a ton if a deal is announced, and then drop it in the teaser as Liev Schreiber aka Cotton Weary says, “Next week on the season finale of Hard Knocks: Los Angeles ...”
It’ll be a very short clip, the final one of the teaser, Ramsey walks into the meeting room to sign his deal, then on the season finale, he’s a $100 million man. Or whatever. Oh yeah, the numbers.
Estimating contract figures, especially AAV, is often super easy. Even with Kittle, whose AAV was about 50-percent greater than the previous record for a tight end, it was obvious that he wasn’t a typical tight end and that the market for tight ends was already exceptionally high even before him and Travis Kelce agreed to deals last week.
The Chargers gave Hunter Henry a $10.6 million franchise tag even though he’s rarely had healthy or uber productive seasons. Austin Hooper got $10.5 million annually even though he’s far from the expected version of a two-time Pro Bowl tight end, averaging only 700 yards per season in that time. Which is totally great for him and he’s a good player, but was anyone going to expect Kittle to only make $1 or $2 million per year more than Austin Hooper?
Contract figures for superstars rarely shock and surprise, you need only focus on the right context.
The first key bit of context for Ramsey is these three offseason deals for cornerbacks:
- Darius Slay, 29, $16.6 million AAV, $26 fully guaranteed
- Byron Jones, 28, $16.5 million AAV, $46 fully guaranteed
- James Bradberry, 27, $14.5 million AAV, $29.8 fully guaranteed
Slay has the highest AAV for any corner in the league. Jones has the highest total dollar figure at $82.5 million over five years. And Bradberry, well, he’s the Austin Hooper here. Probably a very underrated corner but is Ramsey going to make $2 million more per year than Bradberry? Or the same amount as Slay?
I don’t think so.
Ramsey, who turns 26 in October, will be offering his mid-career services to a team that gave up two first round picks for him and he’s already proven to be successful in Los Angeles. He will become the highest paid defensive back in NFL history and could also make more than any other linebacker who isn’t an edge rusher.
People were stunned to see the Jets give C.J. Mosley $17 million per year as an inside linebacker, considerably more than second place, but then the Seahawks extended Bobby Wagner for $18 million per year. If Ramsey gets $18 million per year, there’s nothing unreasonable about it.
For all apparent reasons, he’d command more than Slay and $18 is only $1.4 more than $16 million. And if I’m Ramsey’s agent, I’m not focusing on corners. I’m saying, “How is my client not more valuable than Grady Jarrett ($17 AAV) or DeForest Buckner ($21 AAV) or Frank Clark ($20.8 AAV) or Trey Flowers ($18 AAV)?”
Most importantly, the Rams will work hard to create a deal that does look big and that absolutely sets new benchmarks for cornerbacks and defensive players. They aren’t going to be building up an announcement for something that isn’t headline news such as “$503 million for Patrick Mahomes” and “Joey Bosa, Chargers agree to HUGE (emphasis added) 5-year, $135 million deal.” That could include inflating the numbers in the last two years of the deal in order to raise the AAV while compensating Ramsey with more guarantees.
So it should be easy to plop out a reasonable contract estimate based on educated guesses, starting with an AAV of $18.5 million and a full guarantee of $50 million:
Five years, $92.5 million, $50 million fully guaranteed, $70 million total guaranteed
If the two sides did want to go six years, then you just bump it up to $111 million and fudge with the guarantees. If you think Ramsey wants out sooner, which has some merit, then you take it down to $74 million and the Rams probably still guarantee him most of it. I’ll stick with where I’m at and here’s the final prediction for what happens with LA and Ramsey:
Monday, August 31, 2020 - Ian Rapoport and Michael Silver co-announce a five-year, $92.5 million contract extension between the LA Rams and Jalen Ramsey with $50 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees.
Monday, Aug. 31, 2020 - I take all the credit.
Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 - Hard Knocks teases the Ramsey contract at the end of the episode.
Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020 - I continue to feel good about my prediction coming true.
Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 - Hard Knocks spends part of the final episode of the season watching Ramsey sign his deal and express optimism about getting to play the rest of his career in beautiful SoFi Stadium and getting to shop at Hollywood Park when it opens.
That’s my swing and I’m sticking to it.
*“Swinging for singles” is also how Tinder was pitched to investors. That worked out pretty well for them.