At first glance the trade of All Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Los Angeles Rams on Tuesday evening seems like a win-win for both franchises. However, the trade may indicate further issues for both teams, especially as they move forward with championship aspirations in their respective conferences.
Impact on team chemistry
The Jags may initially be relieved to be rid of Ramsey given his potential effect on the locker room following his trade request. Following a verbal and almost physical sideline disagreement with head coach Doug Marrone in week 2 versus the Houston Texans, Ramsey hadn’t suited up for the team in subsequent games due to reported ailments with his back, in addition to the birth of his child.
The longer this situation rumbled on the more it could have had a negative impact on the locker room in south Florida. It could be argued franchises such as the Chargers and Redskins have seen a negative impact on their teams due to prolonged holdouts by Melvin Gordon and Trent Williams, respectively (although that isn’t the sole reason for this season’s struggles in LA and Washington).
Ramsey’s outspoken and forthright personality also seemed to jar with executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin’s approach to team management and team building which is firmly rooted in an old school, authoritarian approach to leadership. The ex-New York Giants head coach could well be relieved to see Ramsey take his opinions to the West Coast.
Nonetheless, could the Jaguars regret this, particularly if they make the decision to move on from Marrone in the offseason? Last season the team went 5-11 after making it all the way to the AFC Championship game the year prior.
So far this year, Jacksonville is 2-4 and has dropped a long way from being a trendy pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, which it was a year or so ago. If team brass parts with the former Syracuse and Buffalo Bills head coach, it may make their divorce with Ramsey appear unnecessary. It is clear, though, that the team couldn’t make Ramsey wait until the offseason to see if Marrone left as such a move would have undermined their head coach.
Roster building benefits
The Jags also had a looming contract decision to make on the former Florida State cornerback, who showed his desire for a lucrative extension by arriving to training camp in a Brinks truck on one of the most cringeworthy camp entrances there has been. Ramsey would have likely accepted nothing less than being made the highest paid cornerback in the league.
Given Jacksonville’s ill-advised decision to extend former quarterback Blake Bortles following their 2017 run to the AFC Championship game, cap space would be at a premium if general manager Dave Caldwell and Coughlin wanted to further upgrade the talent around whoever starts under center next year.
The haul Coughlin and Caldwell received for Ramsey is impressive, giving them two first round picks in the next two drafts as well as. That will enable them to upgrade the talent around either Nick Foles or Gardner Minshew so the offensive talent matches the quality on Sacksonville’s defensive side of the ball.
However, the ability of the team to hit on those draft picks and select a genuine difference maker may be questioned. Firstly, it was recognised that Ramsey was a unique talent when he entered the draft in 2016 and picking up a player who can have as significant an impact as the lockdown cornerback did upon entering the NFL, will be incredibly difficult to do.
Secondly, the Jags record in the higher rounds of the draft is decidedly mixed. A number of recent high draft picks have been allowed to take their talents elsewhere, due to both performance and injury concerns. The team hoped Bortles would be the franchise’s answer under center yet his propensity for turnovers led him to be cut last offseason and eventually picked up by the Rams.
He’s not the only ex-first rounder to move from east to west coast as Dante Fowler Jr now plies his trade for Sean McVay’s team as well.
In fact, of all the first rounders drafted during Caldwell’s time in Jacksonville, only Leonard Fournette, Taven Bryan and this year’s pick Josh Allen remain with the team. Luke Joeckel proved to not be the answer at left tackle, whilst Fowler and Bortles didn’t live up to their lofty draft status with the team. Even Fournette, who was an explosive back in college, hasn’t been the offensive centrepiece the team envisioned when they drafted him three years ago.
Jacksonville will now also need to upgrade the cornerback position opposite A.J. Bouye where former Raider and Lion D.J. Hayden is likely to replace Ramsey. Expect him to be targeted much more by opponents who will see him as the more favourable matchup than Bouye.
That adds another need to Caldwell and Coughlin’s shopping list besides their other needs on offense. Last season the front office would have counted on cornerback being a position the franchise was confident in for the foreseeable future. That’s no longer the case.