From the time he joined the Rams in the middle of last season — at a cost of two first-round draft picks — Jalen Ramsey surpassed expectations and continued to establish himself as perhaps the NFL’s top cornerback.
Before the 2020 season begins, he is expected to become the league’s highest-paid player at his position.
Asked Tuesday about his approach to a possible extension, Ramsey said the Rams “know where I stand” and that the team had been in contact with his agent. Coach Sean McVay said there had been “dialogue” between the team and Ramsey’s representatives.
“They know what’s up,” Ramsey said during a video conference with reporters. “I know what’s up. So I’m going to let them handle that. … I feel like everybody knew what type of situation it was going to be once they traded for me.”
Ramsey, 25, is in the final year of the rookie contract he signed in 2016 after the Jacksonville Jaguars chose him with the fifth pick in the draft. He is scheduled to earn $13.7 million this season.
Ramsey has been selected to the Pro Bowl three times. Coaches and teammates have described him as one of the rare cornerbacks capable of controlling an entire side of the field.
In March, cornerback Byron Jones signed a five-year, $82.5-million extension with the Miami Dolphins that included about $54.4 million in guarantees, according to spotrac.com.
Asked if Ramsey was capable of resetting the cornerback market, McVay said, “Uh, yeah, I think so.”
The Ramsey negotiations have thus far not taken the turn the Rams experienced in 2017 and 2018, when star defensive tackle Aaron Donald did not participate in the team’s offseason program or training camp while waiting for an extension.
Ramsey has been an active participant in the Rams’ virtual offseason program. Would he report to training camp without an extension in hand?
“Yeah,” Ramsey said, “for sure.”
The Rams have a recent history of giving mega-contracts to star players on the eve of training camp and the season opener. Running back Todd Gurley signed a then-record four-year, $60-million extension as training camp opened in 2018. Donald signed a then-record six-year, $135-million extension 10 days before the 2018 opener. And quarterback Jared Goff landed a record four-year, $134-million extension less than a week before last season’s opener.
All three players were first-round draft picks.
To acquire Ramsey, the Rams gave up their first-round pick in this year’s draft and the 2021 draft. They cleared salary–cap space for an impending long-term deal for Ramsey by cutting Gurley and trading receiver Brandin Cooks.
The Rams added Ramsey, “with the hope that he’s a Ram for a long time,” McVay said.
“You want to figure out how do we get him taken care of the way he deserves,” McVay said, “and then still make sure we’re mindful of the entire team. … There’s a lot of layers to it.”
Ramsey’s value — and his role — could increase this season.
New defensive coordinator Brandon Staley intimated last week that Ramsey would not be limited to playing cornerback in a hybrid 3-4 scheme.
“I do not look at him just as corner,” Staley said. “I look at him as a DB. This guy can do anything.”
Ramsey did not specify what his role would be, but given his size and versatility, it would not surprise if Staley deploys him at times at cornerback, safety and linebacker.
“I’m very excited about the way I’m going to be utilized in this defense — I’ll leave it at [that],” Ramsey said, “But I think my talents will be shown thoroughly, not just in one aspect, if you’re kind of catching my drift.”
The Rams are attempting to rebound from a 9-7 season that left them out of the playoffs for the first time during McVay’s tenure. They acquired Ramsey, ostensibly, to join Donald as defensive cornerstones for years to come.
“We went and got this guy with the hope that it’s not going to be a short-term thing,” McVay said. “How exactly that evolves, we’ll see.
“But I sure hope he’s not leaving.”