By most measures, Jalen Ramsey was the best all-around cornerback in the league when he spent three and a half seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. By those same qualifications, Ramsey has been the best cornerback in the NFL since his return to the Miami Dolphins three games ago. Should the Rams have simply guaranteed his contract, as he wanted, instead of trading him to the Dolphins for a small fraction of his value when he was traded to L.A. in 2019?
The answer to that question is at least a lot less clear than it seemed a few months ago.
Jalen Ramsey has allowed a 0.0 passer rating when targeted this season pic.twitter.com/vDg0FUb3GB— PFF (@PFF) November 20, 2023
Ramsey intercepted two passes against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, giving him three picks in three games after returning from a knee injury suffered in training camp. Quarterbacks have a passer rating of 0.0 when throwing in his direction, according to PFF.
That’s not a very big sample size, but when coupled with the fact that Ramsey is a future Hall of Fame cornerback it makes it easier to assume that he’s been as good as anyone at the position recently.
Should the Rams have simply guaranteed his contract, which would have done nothing to change their salary cap, instead of accepting a third round pick and tight end Hunter Long to ship him to Miami?
Ramsey has a $14.5 million base salary in 2024, money that was not guaranteed when he was traded to the Dolphins. Though Ramsey previously denied that he requested a trade from the Rams, he later tweeted that he had “dreamed of this day for a month” when the deal was announced and that was soon followed by news that Miami was guaranteeing the next two years of his deal. That being the five-year, $100 million contract he signed with the Rams in 2020.
L.A. could have kept Ramsey and it wouldn’t have changed their salary cap this year, as the team is paying $19.6 million in dead money to not have him.
The Rams clearly didn’t do it for salary cap purposes, but also didn’t do it to sell high for a good return before his lost his value after turning 30. The Dolphins sent back third-string tight end Hunter Long and a third round pick, which L.A. used to select Byron Young. That’s a happy return on the draft pick so far, Young’s been a quality rookie edge player, but he could be a Hall of Famer and that wouldn’t change the fact that the Rams only got a third round pick for Ramsey.
It’s not like you can blame Les Snead for accepting such a low return. A player’s value is what it is and I’m sure that L.A. would have accepted better deals if they could. The problem likely stems from Ramsey’s age and contractual demands, as well as what teams he would have been happy with, which shrinks the market considerably.
However, what the Rams could have done is guaranteed the money left on his contract and accepted that they would need to work around his cap hit in 2024.
Should they have?
Well, the answer to that may not be as simple as the All-Pro type season that Ramsey is having.
Ramsey probably wouldn’t have made the Rams from what they are into a Super Bowl contender. It wasn’t the defense’s fault that L.A. scored three points against the Packers, 17 points against the Steelers, or lost by 23 points to the Cowboys. The Rams do have defensive problems, but Ramsey’s absence is also partly responsible for getting a breakout season by Ahkello Witherspoon.
Witherspoon isn’t an All-Pro, but he’s at least on the All-Bargain team.
Lowest Passer Rating Allowed by CBs (min. 35 targets) entering Week 11 in the NFL:— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 17, 2023
1) #Cowboys Daron Bland - 34.0
2) #Saints Paulson Adebo - 43.0
3) #Browns Martin Emerson - 50.2
4) #Browns Denzel Ward - 55.4
5) #Rams Ahkello Witherspoon - 56.8
6) #Chiefs L'Jarius Sneed - 59.1… https://t.co/enhByTuXHt pic.twitter.com/73sUAAr64n
The answer may not simply be that the Rams should have kept Jalen Ramsey or paid him (what they already agreed to pay him) just because Ramsey is great. The Rams already assumed that Ramsey was great! They already assumed that the rest of the roster was not!
It would be different if say, Jacob Harris, had become great. It would be different if say, Allen Robinson, had re-found his form with the Steelers. Then you might wonder, “Why didn’t the Rams make it work with them?” which is actually something you can ask about some players, like Darious Williams, for example.
However, the Rams knew that Ramsey could be a Pro Bowl cornerback in the AFC. They’re also 4-6 and Ramsey wouldn’t have made the team 7-3 or 8-2. They could very well still be 4-6.
It is worth noting that the Rams could still “lose” the trade because Long is not likely to ever become a star and a third round pick is always a third round pick, even if L.A. had hit the lotto with the selection.
That still won’t change the fact that trading Ramsey this offseason was an act of destiny.
Ramsey wanted to feel comfortable with his contract as he got closer to 30. The Rams wanted to start over the roster as soon as possible. The contract and the player’s demands probably shrunk his market considerably. This was the best deal.
As much as it might not make sense to have traded Ramsey for what they got, it also makes perfect sense because of where both parties were at the time of the deal and continue to be. The Rams would be better with Ramsey, but not good enough for the team to worry about what they got in return for Ramsey.