LA Rams must consider trading declining Jalen Ramsey

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

A shutdown cover man is a precious commodity in the modern, pass-heavy NFL, but that shouldn’t keep LA Rams’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey off the trading block. He’s still a premier player at his position, but Ramsey is no longer guaranteed to lock up an opponent’s best receiver. Is it the player, who is less elite? Or is it the system, a zone-heavy network of a pass defense that relies heavily upon communication, coordination, and cooperation? In any case, Ramsey is no longer guaranteed to be the player he once was.

Without that guarantee, the seven-year pro is a luxury the Rams can’t afford. Not when he carries a salary cap hit worth $25.2 million, according to LA Rams’ general manager Les Snead needs the cash to retool a roster old and thin enough at key positions to slip from Super Bowl champions to last in the NFC West in a single season.

Money and draft picks are how the Rams get younger, deeper, and more talented. Ramsey could fetch multiple selections as trade bait, something ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler expects him to be this offseason:

"“[Ramsey] is one I think the Rams will at least explore [moving],” one AFC personnel director said. “He’s still a top guy, but the play has fallen off a little bit and [he] could use a change of scenery.”Ramsey, 28, was the NFL’s No. 1 corner for two consecutive seasons in our summer executive polls. He would have a market.”"

Many believe that LA Rams GB Les Snead needs to offload at least one big name, with Fowler noting the franchise is “nearly $14 million over the salary cap.” Ramsey makes sense as the most viable name the Rams can swap for a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft.

Ramsey is no longer a remedy for No. 1 receivers

Shutting down legitimate No. 1 receivers is Ramsey’s primary job, but he was on the wrong end of those matchups too often in 2022. The downturn began when he was torched by Buffalo Bills’ wide receiver Stefon Diggs in Week 1:

Diggs’ big day began a rocky campaign for Ramsey. He struggled against rookie Drake London and the Atlanta Falcons a week later.

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Things got worse in Week 12 against Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. The Rams mistakenly trusted Ramsey to shadow the All-Pro, but Kelce routinely turned the guy wearing the number 5 on his jersey inside out, like for this touchdown, highlighted by ESPN’s Jacob Nierob:

Kelce averaged 14.2 yards on four receptions, but the Rams believed Ramsey could handle the assignment as a shutdown corner able to play on an island. The veteran lived up to the billing during his first two-and-a-half seasons in L.A., but things look different now.

They were different when Las Vegas Raiders’ wide receiver Davante Adams got by Ramsey for this 35-yard, one-handed grab in Week 14:

There’s no shame in losing out to the great players in the league, but when coaches match best against best, they expect their best to win. Ramsey not doing so as often shows he’s becoming the same as very good but not great cornerbacks.

Fortunately, even a very good cover man can fetch a tidy haul in trade. Cornerback-needy teams like the Washington Commanders and Minnesota Vikings should be required to offer first-round value for a player still on the right side of 30 with five Pro Bowls on his CV.

If so, Snead should seize the chance to put the rebuilding Rams into Round 1 and arm himself with enough resources to plug gaps at edge-rusher, tight end, running back, and along the offensive line. And the Rams’ current pass defense, zone heavy with younger DBs, is really not a strong system for the star cornerback.

Trading Ramsey would make room for top rookies and some solid veterans signed to short-term, cost-effective deals to be new starters at those key spots.

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