Jalen Ramsey contract, salary cap means Rams must fortify corner position via draft

Gary Klein
LA Times
Being able to shut down star receivers such as the Falcons' Julio Jones has made Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey a valuable commodity. <span class="copyright">(Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)</span>
Being able to shut down star receivers such as the Falcons' Julio Jones has made Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey a valuable commodity. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

As the Rams prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 1 of 10: Cornerbacks.

The locker room aisle that is home to Rams cornerbacks was a lively, boisterous spot for the first half of the 2019 season.

Veterans Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters held court, entertaining and educating teammates, and Nickell Robey-Coleman provided the soundtrack via a speaker in his locker.

The space was more reserved after Peters and Talib were traded and the Rams acclimated to the arrival of cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Ramsey is now the undisputed leader of the position group.

The Rams chose not to pick up a $4-million option on Robey-Coleman, so new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley and cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant will try to get the most out of a group lacking marquee names other than Ramsey.

The Rams gave up first-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts to acquire Ramsey in a midseason trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ramsey, 25, lived up to his billing as one of the NFL’s top cover cornerbacks, mostly shutting down star receivers such as Julio Jones, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Amari Cooper and providing turnover opportunities for other defensive players.

Ramsey, who sat out the season finale because of a knee injury, is due to earn $13.7 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract. He is in line for a record-setting extension. The Rams cut players such as running back Todd Gurley and linebacker Clay Matthews, traded receiver Brandin Cooks and let others such as edge rusher Dante Fowler and linebacker Cory Littleton leave as free agents in part to create salary-cap space for this season and beyond with Ramsey’s deal looming.

"We’ve communicated with his reps," general manager Les Snead said of Ramsey, "and we’ll keep those things internal.”

Troy Hill is expected to start opposite Ramsey. The sixth-year pro started nine games last season and intercepted two passes.

Darious Williams started three games and intercepted two passes in 2019. Second-year pro David Long will get the opportunity to replace Robey-Coleman as the slot cornerback.

Under contract for 2020: Jalen Ramsey ($13.7 million), Hill ($4.4 million), Long ($921,000), Dont’e Deayon ($825,000), Williams ($750,000), Adonis Alexander ($675,000).

Free agents: Robey-Coleman played well in 2019 but a 28-year-old slot corner at a $4-million salary was too much for the Rams' budget. Robey-Coleman signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Draft: The Rams are in need of depth so they will be in the market for cornerbacks who can play behind Ramsey and Hill and build for the future.

Roster decisions: A massive extension for Ramsey is on the horizon. Hill and Williams also are in the final year of their contracts.

NEXT: Safeties.

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