Well, we have a winner…
Well, ladies and gentlemen, the elephant in the room has finally arrived. After three highly-awaited weeks, Jalen Ramsey has officially been traded to the Los Angeles Rams for a 2020 1st-rounder, a 2021 1st-rounder, and a 2021 4th-rounder. LA should not have been an unexpected destination for Ramsey at all. The surprise in this situation isn’t his destination, but rather how much, or lack thereof, the Rams gave up.
LA pretty much got away with highway robbery here. Sure, 2 first-round picks are a huge deal regardless of which team traded for the All-Pro corner, but it’s astounding that Jacksonville didn’t ask for a lot more. A fourth-round pick is quite frankly not enough, for how much Ramsey is going to impact this team. The Jaguars should have gotten a player at a position of need, such as a receiver (Josh Reynolds) or a maybe tight end (Gerald Everett), and with all the help the Rams needed at the cornerback position, “Sacksonville” could’ve gotten a lot more out of this trade offer.
From the Rams’ perspective, this trade is a huge win, for the present as well as for the future. While it doesn’t necessarily fix their offensive line issues, they do solve an issue that has plagued their defense for years. However, one thing to pay attention to is how the Rams manage their cap space for the next few years. To say a few large contracts need to be dumped is a huge understatement (more on that in an upcoming article).
LA would have been on this list as an ideal trade scenario for Ramsey if not for that issue: cap space. Over the last two years, the Rams have set the market with deals for quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald (deservedly), with large extensions going to All-Pro left tackle Andrew Whitworth and former 1st-round receiver Brandin Cooks. Sooner or later, one of these contracts will need to get dumped in order to finish building the team, whether it’s the offensive line or the linebacker position.
Buildup To The Trade
Earlier yesterday, the Rams traded former All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for 2018 6th-round linebacker Kenny Young and a 2020 5th-round pick. This move was a brilliant example of foreshadowing by the Rams’ front office. Peters had not played well ever since he joined the Rams, allowing nearly 900 receiving yards as the nearest coverage defender in 2018. While he did play much better nearing the end of the season, LA knew that this recursive cycle of down-the-line improvement would not bode well for their winning chances (as evidenced by Peters’ rough beginning this year), and Peters’ playstyle just didn’t mesh well with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’s system.
Phillips relies on corners who can primarily play man, locking up whichever receiver lines up across from them while he designs blitzes to force quarterbacks off their rhythm. It’s a system that has worked really well the first year Wade has coached for a team (Texans, Broncos), but teams start to figure it out in the second season (look at the Rams defense in 2017 compared to 2018 and 2019).
Peters’s style involves a lot of press-bail technique, jamming the receiver at the line of scrimmage and then flipping his hips so he can sit in zone coverage and then make a play on the ball while reading the quarterback’s eyes. However, a frustrating lack of overall discipline and willingness to tackle has really plagued the former All-Pro’s game the past two seasons. LA finally realized (after two years of this failed experiment) that Peters’ style and Phillips’ system will never be in full synchrony, leading to the corner’s lack of success and increasing dysfunctionality within the Rams secondary, culminating in a trade.
Why did the buildup matter?
But how does this apply to Ramsey? The former Jaguars defensive back is the perfect fit for this defense. Hammer, meet nail. Peanut Butter, meet jelly. However one wants to personify this trade, Ramsey is the perfect fit for the Rams defense (can’t have Ramsey without Rams). Not only is his skillset best adapted for Phillips’s system, but Ramsey has expressed his desires to play man coverage against the opposing team’s best receiver. He’s also a much more gifted athlete than Peters, which makes shadowing top receivers a lot easier.
This trade makes even more sense when one considers who the Rams have to play 6 times a year: now-NFL MVP-contender quarterback Russell Wilson (Seahawks), former Heisman-winning quarterback Kyler Murray (Arizona), and whichever nobody the Shanahan system (San Francisco) turns into an All-Pro. Whichever opponent the NFC West now daunts in front of the Rams, having Jalen Ramsey makes it 1,000 times more difficult for opponents to have success against this defense, as his ability to provide lockdown defense will make a so-far unproductive pass rush more effective.
The Rams Didn’t Just Win Big on The Field…
However, the best and most underrated aspect of this trade is how the addition of Ramsey affects the Rams’ locker room. After the injury to former All-Pro runner Todd Gurley’s knee, the Rams had pretty much lost their voice. The run game was a large part of McVay’s system, and after arthritis affected Gurley, it felt like the Rams lost what made them dangerous.
However, a superhuman talent like Jalen Ramsey is nothing short of a godsend for a locker room. He’s a lot like Jets safety Jamal Adams because like Adams, Ramsey provides a culture to the locker room. The combination of culture in the locker room and superhuman talent carried the Jaguars to an AFC Championship not too long ago, and the benefit could be very similar for the defending NFC Champions, because they finally have what they have lacked for the entire season: an identity.
Ramsey presents a voice, true leadership, a culture, and an identity, all of which the Rams have been missing since Gurley’s aforementioned injury. While this trade doesn’t solve the deficiencies of the Rams’ offensive line, it at least resolves one of the two liabilities this team has had all season. The backbone mantra of LA has been offense. However, those scales may tip, and there’s no better tipper than Jalen Ramsey.