No, that’s not a typo. And no, it’s not a Los Angeles Rams hot take.
Heck, I’m not even saying that the Rams should trade Jalen Ramsey. Extending him should certainly be a priority. However, what I am saying is that it’s something that they should consider and it is something that actually makes sense.
This is something that wouldn’t be far-fetched, and according to ESPN sources, it’s not something that the Rams haven’t considered in the past. Flashback to 2018.
According to ESPN and Adam Schefter, The Rams, “made a pitch to acquire premier pass rusher Khalil Mack with the intention of giving him a raise this season, then dealing him at the end of the year to recoup some if not all of the draft compensation they gave up, according to sources.
Schefter’s report continues by saying, “The team’s thinking, according to sources, was to go all-in this season, then — because of financial constraints — deal Mack away after the season and recoup what they had dealt for him. The idea was to match Mack with Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and Michael Brockers, and bolster their chances, even more, this season.”
Financial constraints…doesn’t that sound familiar? The Rams currently have a little over $19M in cap space with several holes to fill and major pieces needed to be brought back.
The Original Plan
The Los Angeles Rams and general manager Les Snead haven’t been afraid when it comes to making big moves. They also haven’t been afraid to cut their losses on those moves. Whether it was to trade for Sammy Watkins only to let him walk in free agency or trade for Marcus Peters only to trade him away for a depth spot at linebacker and a 5th round pick. That doesn’t even mention trading for Dante Fowler who could walk this offseason.
Well, making a big move was in the cards again for the Rams this season. Snead made an aggressive push to trade away Peters who wasn’t a fit in Wade Phillips’ scheme only to then trade two first-round picks for arguably the best cornerback in the league: Jalen Ramsey.
Sitting at 3-3 and on the heels of a three-game losing streak, the Rams traded for Ramsey in hopes to get back on track and make a push for the playoffs. That didn’t work out. The Rams ended up at 9-7 and missing the playoffs entirely.
The plan was clearly to trade for Ramsey in hopes of making a run at the playoffs in the second half of the season. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Now the Rams are left with the best cornerback in the league with one year left on his contract and this is a regime that historically hasn’t signed their defensive backs to long-term deals.
The team let Janoris Jenkins walk and they had Trumaine Johnson play two years on the franchise tag before he left for the Jets in free agency.
The Salary Cap
As mentioned above, the Rams will have around $19M to spend this offseason once Eric Weddle officially clears the books after retiring. With Michael Brockers, Dante Fowler, Cory Littleton, and Andrew Whitworth all set to hit free agency, tough decisions are going to be made. To say the least, this is a team with financial constraints.
By trading Ramsey, the Los Angeles Rams would save $14M. Now, I’m not at all saying trade Ramsey for the sake of trading Ramsey. However, if Snead can get a first-round pick in return it may be something to consider.
While no player in the draft is going to be anywhere near the caliber of Ramsey, saving $14M while also having the ability to draft a player that will be on a rookie contract, could be beneficial.
Instead of paying one player $14M for one year. The Rams could draft someone like Kristian Fulton, CJ Henderson, or AJ Terrell depending on where the first-round pick ends up and pay them anywhere from $10-$15M over four years plus the fifth-year rookie option.
Trading Ramsey would give the Rams around $31M in cap space. With players like Brockers, Fowler, Littleton, and Whitworth needing contracts, the Rams may be able to bring back two instead of just one. Hypothetically speaking, if the Rams signed Whitworth for one year at $6M (What Jason Peters was paid last year) and then signed Littleton for $13M per year, that would still leave the Rams with $14M and the ability to bring in another cheap free agent or two.
The whole point here is that Ramsey is taking up $14M in cap space and is going to command the largest cornerback contract on the market. Right now, that’s Xavien Howard at $15M, but Ramsey is going to demand more.
This becomes a decision between, would you rather trade Ramsey for a first-round pick and pay a player 1/3 of the cost on a rookie deal plus sign Whitworth and Littleton/Fowler or would you rather sign Ramsey to a long-term extension and inhibit your cap position further?
The Los Angeles Rams traded a pair of first-round picks for Ramsey. For a player, even of Ramsey’s talent, on a one-year deal, Snead most likely wouldn’t get two first-rounders back. He’d be lucky to get one which is the only time you would do it.
The Rams only got a depth linebacker and a fifth-round pick for Peters because they would have gotten a third or fourth-round compensatory pick next year. The same can be said for why the Houston Texans only got two players and a third-round pick for Jadaveon Clowney. They would have gotten a third-round pick for him anyway so why would a team pay more than that?
Ramsey may be a special case in that he could demand a first-round pick on a one-year deal simply for the fact that he is a generational talent. Even then, however, the Rams are taking a loss on the 2021 first-round pick. This hasn’t been something that Snead has been afraid to do though. He hasn’t been afraid to admit his mistakes in the situations.
Snead paid a second-round pick for Sammy Watkins on a one-year deal. Instead of overpaying a wide receiver who wasn’t productive in the offense, Snead took the loss and moved on, trading for Brandin Cooks.
The same could be said for Marcus Peters. Peters clearly wasn’t a fit with the Rams so Snead traded him to Baltimore even though it meant not getting back what he paid. Again, the Rams upgraded by trading for Ramsey.
While Ramsey may be a fit in the Rams’ scheme, the fact of the matter is, the Rams traded for him in hopes to make a playoff push and it didn’t happen. As of right now, he’s a luxury that the Rams can’t afford. No, you’re not getting two first-round picks back, but if you can get one first-round pick back and then get the same position for 1/3 of the price on a four-year deal, it might be the smart play.
Again, I’m not saying that the Los Angeles Rams should trade Jalen Ramsey and I’m not even seeing this as a “hot takes” article. As an NFL general manager, all options need to be on the table and trading Ramsey is certainly an option. The cornerback is taking up $14M on a team that doesn’t have a lot of cap space with holes to fill.
Not only that, this is a team that has reportedly explored the same option with another elite caliber player in the past. If trading Ramsey means a first-round pick and being able to bring back Littleton and Whitworth, isn’t that something to at the very least explore, even if it means taking the loss on a first-round pick?