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The Buzz About A Blockbuster Jalen Ramsey Trade Has Reached The Point Where It Feels Like It'll Actually Happen

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Pretty much nothing went right for the Los Angeles Rams this past season. They staged maybe the worst defense of a Super Bowl title in NFL history en route to a 5-12 record. Entering last year and throughout it, head coach Sean McVay was making more headlines for a potential TV gig than anything he was doing at his current job. Aaron Donald damn near retired before the 2022 campaign and was among many stars who got banged up (missed six games), along with quarterback Matthew Stafford and stud wideout Cooper Kupp, who appeared in only nine games apiece.

Even with the incoming salary cap increase, the Rams' long-term outlook isn't great. They've already captured a Lombardi Trophy, so it's only logical that they evaluate how to build out a more well-rounded roster in the coming years to avoid last season's bottoming-out scenario.

And that brings us to All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. LA's COO Kevin Demoff could've made a much stronger statement on Ramsey's behalf. Instead, he did legitimately nothing to quell speculation that the Rams might move on from Ramsey this offseason.

You could say Ramsey was airing frustration after a whole lot of losing and that he was in his bag Nadu-style in the early hours of the LA morning...but what he posted the Friday after the team's regular-season finale is worth revisiting:

In addition to what Ramsey posted Thursday evening, I stumbled upon this from a little over a week ago...

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So please miss me with accusations of clickbait headlines and running with the fickle ball of rampant, unfounded speculation. This all seems to be adding up and building toward something. Then there's this from ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler, which flew a little under the radar earlier this week since it's behind the Plus Paywall:

"L.A. seems destined for a mini reset to recoup resources, and it must decide which marquee players it's comfortable letting go this offseason. Teams I've talked to wonder if the Rams will part with cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who has a $25.2 million cap hit. And rebuilding a sagging offensive line will go a long way to helping coach Sean McVay regain his mojo on offense."

Take that on its own, and it seems like guesstimates by probable NFL personnel sources with potential ulterior motives, a la driving the narrative that Ramsey could be dealt. Kevin Demoff could've put all that to rest by saying, "Nope. Jalen Ramsey is a big part of our future, an elite corner, and someone we intend to see finish his career as a Ram."

But NOPE. That ain't what happened. I get being diplomatic and not saying anything definitive this early in the offseason. Nevertheless, kind of a weird vibe when it comes to a player like Ramsey.

Giphy Images.

Many armchair experts believe Ramsey is washed. There's also the "better to cut ties with a guy a year too early rather than a year too late" adage that Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick followed throughout their legendary coaching careers. I don't buy either of those narratives when it comes to this guy.

While Ramsey did allow a 98.6 passer rating when targeted in 2022, it's worth adding some context. Yes, he got cooked by Stefon Diggs and the Bills in Week 1 for two touchdowns. Then from Weeks 11 through 13, Ramsey had a bit of a rough stretch. In the first of those games, Stafford went down with a concussion and didn't return the rest of the season. The next two contests were at Kansas City and home against the Seahawks, where Ramsey let up only one catch in each but both went for TDs. Not the easiest opponents (Super Bowl champs and another playoff team), especially when your offense is so compromised by incompetent quarterback play from the likes of Bryce Perkins and John Wolford.

Then there was Davante Adams just being Davante Adams in Week 15.

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Maybe I'm making too many exceptions. Or, maybe we should give Ramsey more credit for staying locked in for all 17 games enough to post PFF's third-highest overall grade among cornerbacks, including the No. 1 grade in run defense. If that's, like, a down year or an indication that a dude is washed, give me that allegedly washed version of Ramsey and I'll ride it out for better or worse.

SO. What is Ramsey getting at when he says he won't be cut, but doesn't rule out being traded? It's all about the salary cap implications. The most realistic scenario of a Ramsey trade is before the NFL Draft so that the Rams know which prospective first-round pick they'd have. I think one, or perhaps two first-rounders is the starting point for negotiations involving Ramsey.

Trading Ramsey prior to June 1 sucks, because LA could wait till after that date and save $17 million in 2023 versus only $5.6 million. Even as the Rams eat more dead money in the short term, though, they still get Ramsey's big contract off the books. I ran through some moves on OverTheCap.com to show how a Ramsey trade and contract restructures this year and in 2024 can be balanced to free up over $30 million in cap room each of the next two seasons:

Rams cap space with Jalen Ramsey trade and restructures:

  • 2023 — Before: $ -14.1 million / After: $31.2 million
  • 2024 — Before: $ -2.9 million / After: $35.1 million

I personally wouldn't pull the trigger on a Jalen Ramsey trade. He does so much in the secondary and is so uncommonly tough in run support for such an elite cornerback. Then again, the Rams have been playing with fire for years and finally got scorched in 2022. 

Nothing will surprise regarding what GM Les Snead does. This man is the most fearless NFL executive of my lifetime. Snead could very well triple down once more and try to squeeze another deep playoff run out of this core group as is. However, at some point, I think Snead and the front office are too forward-thinking and smart to naïvely believe this prevailing mortgage-the-future strategy will last.

Where could you see Jalen Ramsey being traded? I feel like the Bears, Raiders, Lions and Seahawks make sense. Detroit and Seattle have multiple first-round picks this year and could kick in a premium 2024 asset. Chicago laps everyone in cap space. Las Vegas has $47 million in cap room, needs a big splash on defense, and could send the Rams their second-rounder this year and a 2024 first-rounder plus additional compensation.

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Or, you know, maybe this is all bullshit and Ramsey remains a Ram. I'm inclined to believe the writing is already on the wall that he's on his way out. We shall see.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok