News & Analysis

CB Jalen Ramsey signs record-breaking contract with the Los Angeles Rams

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Los Angeles Rams and cornerback Jalen Ramsey have 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. The deal also contains a staggering $71.2 million guaranteed at signing, which is reportedly fully guaranteed and not just guaranteed for injury.

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 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.

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

Not only did all three raise the average-per-year mark, which only means so much from a cash-flow perspective, but they also secured impressive guarantees. At the end of the day, this is great news for Ramsey as he looks to build upon his first year in Los Angeles.

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 still 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%), 10th in yards per target allowed (7.2) and fifth in passer rating allowed (76.5).

Of course, the big matchups against opponents' No. 1 wide receiver are what 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.

Jalen Ramsey: Coverage stats against notable wide receivers (2016-19, regular season only)
Opposing WR Tgts. Rec. Allowed Yds. Allowed TDs Allowed Comp. % Passer Rating Allowed
Emmanuel Sanders 8 1 3 0 12.5% 0.0
T.Y. Hilton 31 14 218 1 45.2% 66.3
Antonio Brown 16 8 201 1 50.0% 77.1
Alshon Jeffery 13 7 104 0 53.9% 80.3
DeAndre Hopkins 59 32 396 2 54.2% 86.5
Tyreek Hill 7 4 62 0 57.1% 86.6
Julio Jones 7 4 69 0 57.1% 90.8

Average passer rating allowed since 2016 = 93.2

Perhaps most importantly, cornerbacks have the highest WAR potential of any defensive position, but the big reason why their market has been suppressed is because of the instability of the cornerback 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. 

One final contract note, Tre' Davious White‘s four-year, $69 million extension that was signed earlier this week ($17.25 million per year) just became one of the most team-friendly deals in the entire NFL — Bills GM Brandon Beane was very smart to lock that deal in when he did. White was drafted after Marshon Lattimore, Marlon Humphrey and Adoree' Jackson back 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.

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 skill set was 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 physically with any receiver in the game, but with 4.41 speed in the 40-yard dash, he also has the wheels to live with speedsters.

We saw how quickly he was able to translate those tools to elite-level play, and in his second NFL season, he posted an overall PFF grade of 91.3 while allowing just 53.8% 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 and draw the toughest assignments in the game. 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 what they can do on defense, and they 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, D.K. Metcalf and Amari Cooper — he didn't allow a touchdown or a single 100-yard performance in any one 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 physically overwhelm him, was able to show that he has fundamentally sound coverage skills at this level and 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 simply 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 you face. That old adage of the perfect pass and catch beats the perfect coverage every time is a valid truism, and so the longer the sample size you can construct for a cornerback, the better.

Over the last three years, despite drawing some of the toughest assignments in the game, Ramsey has earned an overall PFF grade of 91.0, third among outside corners behind only Stephon Gilmore and Casey Hayward Jr. He is clearly 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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