Was Jalen Ramsey's record-breaking contract worth it for the Rams?

·6 min read

By Sam Monson and Brad Spielberger

The Los Angeles Rams and cornerback Jalen Ramsey agreed to a five-year, $100 million extension with a maximum value of $105 million that keeps Ramsey in L.A. through the 2025 season, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday. The deal also contains a staggering $71.2 million guaranteed at signing, which is reportedly fully guaranteed.

The Ramsey extension is the latest in a long line of self-induced overpays across the NFL. When a team trades substantial draft capital for a player — in Ramsey’s case, two first-round picks were sent to the Jacksonville Jaguars — that player has tremendous leverage over the new organization. The way to optimize the trade-and-sign is how the Chicago Bears did it with Khalil Mack, where the extension was already agreed to as a part of the trade.

Ramsey’s new $20 million per year average is almost a 20 percent raise over Darius Slay, the next highest-paid cornerback. This follows the deals signed by DeAndre Hopkins, who recently secured a 24 percent raise over Julio Jones at wide receiver, and Laremy Tunsil, who earned a 22 percent raise over Philadelphia Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson earlier this offseason.

This is great news for Ramsey as he looks to build upon his first year in Los Angeles. The Rams open the 2020 NFL season in new SoFi Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, streaming in the Yahoo Sports app.

Jalen Ramsey celebrates a Rams win.
Jalen Ramsey will become the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history after agreeing to a five-year, $105 million contract extension with the Rams. (Kyusung Gong/AP File)

Ramsey was a rare, top-five pick at cornerback and has more than lived up to the billing, immediately becoming one of the NFL’s best defensive backs. He’s always had the skill and smack talk of a $100 million man, and now his bank account will reflect that. He is just 26 years old as he enters his fifth NFL season, and if he has more room to grow, that could be downright terrifying for the NFC West.

Since joining the league in 2016, Ramsey is fifth in completion percentage allowed (55.5 percent), 10th in yards per target allowed (7.2) and fifth in passer rating allowed (76.5).

Big matchups against No. 1 wide receivers matter most, and Ramsey has the best passer rating allowed (82.1) and most forced incompletions (20) of any cornerback against PFF’s 10 highest-graded wide receivers since 2016.

(Pro Football Focus)
(Pro Football Focus)

Perhaps most important, cornerbacks have the highest WAR potential of any defensive position. The big reason why their market has been suppressed is because of the instability of the position. When you find a player like Ramsey, who consistently plays at a high level and doesn't allow his lows to be too low, his contribution to the defensive scheme is invaluable.

(Tre’Davious White’s four-year, $69 million extension ($17.25 million per year) became one of the most team-friendly deals in the NFL. Bills general manager Brandon Beane was very smart to lock that deal in when he did. White was drafted after Marshon Lattimore, Marlon Humphrey and Adoree’ Jackson in 2017, so if any of these players have a strong year in 2020, they should expect an extension closer to Ramsey’s number than White’s.)

Jalen Ramsey vs. NFL’s No. 1 receivers

Ramsey has been seen as the new prototype at cornerback since he came into the league. A player who was used all over the defense at Florida State, his skills were seen to be most valuable as a perimeter shutdown corner. At 6-foot-1 and 208 pounds, Ramsey has the size, strength and length to battle any receiver, and with 4.41 speed in the 40-yard dash, he has the wheels to keep up with speedsters.

We saw how quickly he translated those tools to elite play, and in his second NFL season, he posted an overall PFF grade of 91.3 while allowing just 53.8 percent of the 106 targets sent his way to be caught as part of that outstanding Jacksonville defense of 2017.

From that point, Ramsey was deployed like an elite corner, often used to shadow the game’s best across the field. When the Rams came calling to trade for an elite player, this contract was always going to materialize. They shipped multiple first-round picks to the Jaguars for a player who would change their defense, and the Rams immediately began to use Ramsey to shadow the game’s best receivers.

In just a little more than half a season after being traded to Los Angeles, Ramsey was asked to shadow Julio Jones, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Allen Robinson II, DK Metcalf and Amari Cooper. He didn’t allow a touchdown or a single 100-yard performance in any of those games.

What’s more, Ramsey’s ability to take the No. 1 weapon in an offense has a knock-on effect on the rest of the defense. Troy Hill, now freed from having to cover players who would overwhelm him, was able to show that he has fundamentally sound coverage skills. Hill earned a career-best overall PFF grade of 76.4, good enough to rank in the top 20 league-wide.

Ramsey’s ability to excel against a team’s best weapon can’t be overstated; it allows the team a freedom that other teams don’t have, and his impact goes beyond just the man he is covering on any given play.

Cornerback is one of the most volatile positions in the league in terms of year-to-year grading because of how dependent it is on the opposition. That old adage of the perfect pass and catch beats the perfect coverage every time is valid, and so the longer the sample size you can construct for a cornerback, the better.

Over the past three years, despite drawing some of the toughest assignments in the game, Ramsey has earned an overall PFF grade of 91, third among outside corners behind Stephon Gilmore and Casey Hayward Jr. He is one of the game’s most dominant cornerbacks and has the ability to rival Gilmore as the most difficult cornerback to beat in all of football.

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