Well, ladies and gentlemen, the answer to that question can be condensed into two words: Jalen Ramsey. The fourth-year cornerback has requested a trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars, and is completely through with the team’s incompetence. The Jags’ price on him is historically high; the Baltimore Ravens had to pull out of the Ramsey sweepstakes after their offer (former 2018 first-round tight end Hayden Hurst, two future first-round picks) was declined. Because the cost of acquiring Ramsey will definitely decrease, almost every team should be involved in trade talks, regardless of the money and picks to compensate acquisition as well as future extensions. However, the resulting question from this conundrum becomes “Why Ramsey?”
So, indeed, why Ramsey?
First of all, any team who acquires Ramsey for whatever price (2 first-round picks and a decent player for now) will not only need to sacrifice draft capital, but also cap space, as the 4th-year corner has made his request to become the highest-paid corner in league history abundantly clear.
The value of the lost assets and cap space would seem to exceed the value of the player in 99.99% of all other cases. If any other defensive back was on the trade block, cornerback or safety, this discussion would be completely meaningless. In order to analyze why Ramsey’s case presents such a unique contrast to the cornerback evaluations presented above, one needs to take a closer look at why Ramsey is unique.
The Wideout Warden….and more
Jalen Ramsey is one of the most transcendent cornerback talents to have ever entered the league, period. A freak athlete who almost qualified for the Olympics in college, the former top-five pick may be one of the most feared defenders in the entire league, and defies all convention and theory when it comes to the cornerback position.
Ramsey is just a do-it-all talent at his position. He can play press-man and challenge his receivers at the line of scrimmage, operate in off coverage due to incredible recovery speed, and he’s never afraid to make a ruthless open-field tackle. Best of all, he is one of the few corners in the league who can shadow the opposing team’s best receiver in man coverage for a whole game.
Not only is Ramsey one of the most gifted players in the entire league (let alone his position), but his unique ability to affect the play of opposing receivers through relentless trash talk is simply unmatched. Outside of prime Richard Sherman (who isn’t half the athlete Ramsey is), there’s never been a corner who could dominate opponents in the mental and in the physical game like Ramsey can today.
Jacksonville has been incredulously misusing the All-Pro talent by playing him in zone coverage (Cover 3, Cover 4), rather than allowing him to trail the opponent’s best receiver on every play (imagine asking a flute player to play clarinet). When the Jaguars played combo coverages and left their two All-Pro corners in man coverage, Ramsey has thrived. Thus, it only makes sense for Ramsey to request a trade, as his desire to play man coverage can be well-utilized with a winning locker room culture who prioritizes the stars it has.
Locker Room: Culture or Cancer?
One of the main issues most of the NFL community mentions when discussing Ramsey as a player is the aforementioned smack talk. For some strange reason, there has been a growing misconception around the NFL that any franchise who trades for him will create a cancerous, toxic locker room environment due to Ramsey’s proud and egotistical personality.
However, this is completely false! When it comes to contributing to a dysfunctional locker room environment, names who come to mind are Antonio Brown (to no one surprise), Terrell Owens (also to no surprise), and Adam “Pacman” Jones. All of these players, through their dominant “leadership” personalities and their tendency to attract media scrutiny, single-handedly ruined the team dynamic of whatever team they played for, resulting in the deterioration of the aforementioned team over a period of time.
Now, does this apply to Ramsey? Let’s find out. Does he have a dominant personality? Absolutely. Is the star cornerback a great leader? No other athlete in the NFL is the heart and soul of the team he plays for the way Ramsey is, in terms of embodying everything his team stands for and acting like a total professional on the field. On the other hand….
Did he invite the media over to inspect one of his private workouts? No. Did he wear inappropriate equipment and catch frostbite on one of his feet? Also no. Did he express a very public display of frustration and annoyance over a helmet? No. Did he get in a fight with his general manager after being fired for not showing up to mandatory, contractually-obligated team practices? No. Did he record a private conversation with his coach and post it on his Youtube channel? No (There should be a theme here).
The point is, Ramsey’s professionalism is nothing but a positive locker room presence. While yes, his personality is very bright, every team needs that “Draymond Green”-type presence to motivate their locker room by “talking the talk” as well as “walking the walk”, so this presents extra value to teams when evaluating his profile.
Ramsey’s current situation is also intriguing, because it mirrors that of two Hall-of-Fame corners in the past: Champ Bailey and Darrelle Revis, both of whom were traded away from the teams who selected them. Similar to the aforementioned Hall-of-Famers, Ramsey is at his peak form, meaning he’s worth every asset and penny teams will have to spend on him. Conversely, he is neither coming off injury (Revis tore his ACL in his final season with the Jets), nor is he demanding money (yet). Due to a lack of mutual respect from either side, however, Ramsey is requesting a trade (preferably to a winning locker room).
The timing is so opportune for teams who need desperate help at cornerback (or even safety, for that matter) or contenders who need finishing touches to their Super Bowl-ready rosters.