With pick No. 4 in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys had their choice of the best players coming from college. The debate came down to running back Ezekiel Elliott or cornerback Jalen Ramsey. History will forever remember America’s Team taking Elliott to become their next franchise running back.
History doesn’t usually repeat itself twice, but Dallas could find themselves with the same decision and wonder if Ramsey should finally become a Dallas Cowboy. They might be asking the question sooner than expected.
NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reports that “the Rams have had trade talks” about Jalen Ramsey, and “sources now believe it’s very likely Ramsey is dealt in the coming weeks.”
The #Rams have had trade talks about six-time Pro Bowl CB Jalen Ramsey and league sources now believe it’s very likely Ramsey is dealt in coming weeks.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 25, 2023
Ramsey, 28, is due $17 million in 2023 on a front-loaded deal that averages $20M and L.A. is clearing cap space. pic.twitter.com/vTYlX7nn5B
Being the center of trade talk is nothing new for Ramsey. After four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the former first-round pick wanted to part ways mid-season in 2019 and was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round picks (2020 and 2021) and a fourth-round pick (2021).
Since the trade, Ramsey has earned four trips to the Pro Bowl and two first-team All-Pro nominations. In four seasons with the Rams, he has ten interceptions, 47 pass deflections, and 15 tackles for loss. Ramsey has never been shy of tackling in the open field, which led to a career-high 88 combined tackles in 2022.
There’s no question the Cowboys need help at the cornerback position. After losing Anthony Brown for the year against the Colts, Dallas’ pass defense never fully recovered and had a rotation of five players (Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright, Trayvon Mullen, Xavier Rhodes, and Israel Mukuamu) from Week 14 into the playoffs.
Outlining the details of a potential deal for Ramsey
The Cowboys wouldn’t need to give up similar compensation to what the Rams gave for the Pro Bowl corner in 2019. Along with taking on the salary, which the Rams desperately need to get under the salary cap, trading second-round picks in 2023 and 2024 with a fifth-round selection in 2023 might get it done. At least the PFF mock draft simulator says it would work.
Why not give up a few second-round picks? Dallas has a bad history of hitting on those selections lately, so trading two of them for three years of control for Ramsey would be appealing.
With his contract, the Rams gave Ramsey a five-year, $100 million extension in Sep. of 2020, which leaves three years remaining on his deal. Here are the full details according to Spotrac.com: In 2023, Ramsey is owed a $17 million salary and has a cap hit of $25.2 million. His salary drops for 2024 and 2025 to $14.5 and $15.5 million, respectively, with some roster bonuses.
If the Cowboys made the trade this season and needed to cut Ramsey in 2024, his dead cap hit would be spread out between 2024 and 2025 ($8.2 million and $3.2 million) and give Dallas a cap savings of $18.5 million if released as a post-June 1st designation in 2024.
All of that to say, it’s certainly a high price to pay for a 29-year-old cornerback, but it can be done if the Cowboys renegotiate other deals with current players. It could also be the missing piece on defense Dallas is currently looking for.
The Cowboys made a similar move for a Super Bowl in ‘95...but
Jerry Jones made an “all-in” move when he signed Deion Sanders in 1995, giving the Cowboys their third Super Bowl victory the same season. Sanders was 28 at the time, coincidentally around the current age of Ramsey. Ramsey playing opposite Trevon Diggs under Dan Quinn would arguably become the best cornerback duo in the NFL.
However, with contract extensions needing to get done with Diggs, CeeDee Lamb, and Micah Parsons very soon, this move could be made for a one-year rental.
Trading for Ramsey would undoubtedly be a ‘Super Bowl or bust’ move for a Cowboys front office that has been unwilling to push in their chips. Jerry Jones did mention at the Senior Bowl “he knows how to take risks” and “if it would make some sense, [he’s] definitely got risk-taking in [him].”
Based on Pelissero’s report, the league will know soon enough if Ramsey will be moved again. If he finds himself in Dallas like what could have happened on draft night seven years ago, then Jones will certainly be risking it all for someone he hopes could be the next Sanders for the Cowboys.