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Predicting what Jalen Ramsey's next contract could look like

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  • Predicting what Jalen Ramsey's next contract could look like

    Cameron DaSilva
    May 28, 2020 10:05 am ET

    After a few years of being aggressive and making high-profile additions, the Los Angeles Rams took a step back this offseason and played it more conservatively by shedding bloated contracts instead of bringing more in.

    It was all in an effort to balance the salary cap out ahead of the 2021 offseason, which comes with even more important decisions than the ones they had to make this year. Jalen Ramsey headlines a free agency class that also includes Cooper Kupp, John Johnson, Gerald Everett, Troy Hill, Austin Blythe and Leonard Floyd.

    Ramsey is set to make $13.7 million in 2020 on the fifth-year option and has already said he won’t hold out if he doesn’t get an extension this offseason. That doesn’t mean the Rams should put off signing him for another year, though.

    He’s made his stance on the matter very clear and says the Rams know where he stands. Sean McVay said “there’s a lot of dialogue” between the team and Ramsey’s agent regarding a new contract, but the two sides haven’t come to an agreement yet.

    After giving up two first-round picks and another fourth-rounder, the Rams would be foolish to let Ramsey leave after just a season and a half – which makes signing him to an extension all the more likely. But what might that contract look like? One thing’s for sure: It’ll reset the cornerback market and make him the highest-paid player ever at the position.

    Here’s a look at the current cornerback market in terms of the highest salary, signing bonus and guaranteed at signing.

    Highest-paid per year: Darius Slay, $16.68 million per year
    Largest signing bonus: Denzel Ward, $19.29 million
    Most guaranteed at signing: Byron Jones, $46 million

    Assuming Ramsey wants to eclipse all of those numbers, his contract is going to be a hefty one for the Rams. Here’s a simple projection of what his extension with the Rams could look like.
    • 5 years, $90 million ($18 million per year)
    • $20 million signing bonus
    • $50 million guaranteed at signing

    It’s unclear how long of a contract Ramsey wants, but five years would make sense for the Rams. It would fall right between the six-year deal Aaron Donald got and the four-year extension given to Jared Goff.

    In this scenario, we’re assuming the contract gets done before the season starts. That way, it could replace his current contract and allow the Rams to lower his 2020 cap hit from $13.7 to something more manageable.

    So in essence, it would be an additional four years on top of this coming season, keeping him under contract until he’s 30 years old through the 2024 season.

    Now let’s get to the nuts and bolts of the deal.

    The annual value of Ramsey’s contract will be somewhat difficult to project. He’ll certainly go above Darius Slay’s $16.7 million per year, being three years younger. But how much higher will the Rams go? Could Ramsey be the first $20 million-per-year cornerback? It’s possible, but probably only if he takes a shorter-term deal in the range of three or four years. At five years, it’s more likely to be around $18-19 million per year.

    Because signing bonuses are prorated across the life of the contract, the Rams would be smart to make it a five-year deal rather than a three- or four-year extension, allowing them to spread the money out over a longer period of time. The $20 million signing bonus would be the most of any active cornerback – slightly above Denzel Ward’s $19.3 million – and tied with Earl Thomas among all defensive backs.

    It would be $1 million less than Todd Gurley got from the Rams, and also less than Donald’s ($40 million) and Goff’s ($25 million). Ramsey’s camp might aim to go above Gurley’s signing bonus, but he won’t top Goff’s or Donald’s.

    The $50 million guaranteed at signing would also top all cornerbacks, going above Byron Jones’ $46 million – which is $15 million more than any other cornerback. For comparison, Goff got $57 million guaranteed at signing, while Donald got $50 million, Gurley got $21.9 million and Brandin Cooks got $20.5 million.

    The $50 million would include his $20 million signing bonus, leaving $30 million left as guaranteed salary – which the Rams could decide to spread out over Years 2-4 instead of front-loading it in 2020 when their cap space is limited. In order to lower his cap hit in 2020, the Rams could drop his base salary to about $5 million and tack on $4 million from his prorated signing bonus, putting his cap hit at $9 million next season instead of $13.7 million.

    The Ravens did something similar with Earl Thomas last year, giving him a base salary of $2 million in 2019 with his prorated signing bonus adding on $5 million to bring his cap hit to $7 million. His salary spikes to $10 million in 2020 with a cap hit of $15 million, which increases by $1 million in each of the next two years.

    This deal for Ramsey would obviously give the Rams three huge contracts to manage for the next five years, including Donald and Goff, both of whom are signed through 2024. However, the Rams knew when they acquired Ramsey that he would require a new contract, and the moves they made to dump Gurley and Cooks free up money in the next few years.

    At $18 million per year, it’s manageable for Los Angeles. Combined, Gurley and Cooks were earning more than $30 million per year in base salary. Yes, it would reset the cornerback market, but the Rams knew that’s been Ramsey’s goal dating back to last year.

    Los Angeles typically hands out extensions between July and September, so it’s possible nothing will happen on the Ramsey front until this summer. But needless to say, this is a situation worth monitoring throughout the offseason.

  • #2
    One huge question hovering around all contracts, not a Rams specific point. The key to the teams signing these big contracts has been the assumption that the cap will continue to go up over time because of ever increasing revenues. Is that a safe bet right now in the context of covid? Unclear in so many different respects. Will tv ratings go up? What is the impact of lost revenues if fans are not in the stadiums, luxury box, parking, beer revenues? Are those impacts this season only or do they linger on?

    If it is no longer a given that the overall cap will continue to increase every year, how does that impact guys like ramsey and clowney who are looking to get paid right now? Short answer, not well! Will teams be a little more cautious about taking the plunge on big free agents and will teams be more willing to wait until a player is in the contract year before signing a long term deal rather than signing a year or more in advance (ie the gurley issue).

    Time will tell, but the overall size of the cap is a critical component in determining salaries and we are now in an era of the most uncertainty in recent history.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel


    • #3
      Fair point GC. A rising cap each year has been a yearly certainty... but perhaps no longer. If that's a concern, I would not doubt the team would write in a clause that should the cap not increase by x%, on any given year, then his salary would dip in a corresponding manner. That would at least give them a safety valve. Most monstrous contract I ever worked on was for a designer and a parachute and extreme sports manufacturer.... I'm sure NFL contracts are just as beastly.


      • #4
        Originally posted by general counsel View Post
        If it is no longer a given that the overall cap will continue to increase every year, how does that impact guys like ramsey and clowney who are looking to get paid right now? Short answer, not well! Will teams be a little more cautious about taking the plunge on big free agents and will teams be more willing to wait until a player is in the contract year before signing a long term deal rather than signing a year or more in advance (ie the gurley issue).
        There is a story on today talking about this matter. Although nothing is set in stone the NFL & NFLPA wants to flatten the movement of the cap as much as possible so as not to harm teams or the players. Stay tuned, this could cause problems for both sides in this matter.

        Update: Just saw Nick has posted the article on the NFL Talk Forum of this site.
        Last edited by mde8352gorams; -06-02-2020, 04:14 PM.


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