the Los Angeles Rams had the season from hell in 2022 and by the end of it the only man left standing was Jalen Ramsey. Which is a bit dramatic but also true. Ramsey’s fellow defensive star, Aaron Donald, missed the last few weeks of the year with an ankle injury. Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp, the guys who make up the engine of the offense, were both on the IR by the end of the season. Sean McVay looked like he had one foot out the door the last six weeks before deciding to return to the sideline instead of bolting to the broadcast booth.
That formula resulted in the Rams going 5-12 and a very expensive roster just got a year older while accomplishing absolutely nothing. That could have consequences. In a piece for ESPN+ on Tuesday, NFL insider Jeremy Fowler posited that the Rams will have to trade at least one big salary in order to deal with their cap situation and an AFC executive suggested Ramsey:
Teams move off high-earning players for a variety of reasons, a reality the Rams and Raiders could prove over the next few months.
For Los Angeles, the reason is clear: The Rams are nearly $14 million over the salary cap and have six players with cap hits of $20-plus million.
Restructuring a few contracts would get the team in palatable cap position, but after a five-win season, the Rams could revisit their top-heavy roster philosophy.
“[Ramsey] is one I think the Rams will at least explore [moving],” one AFC personnel director said. “He’s still a top guy, but the play has fallen off a little bit and [he] could use a change of scenery.”
Ramsey does make the most sense out of the potential options if the Rams really wanted to shake it up. He missed out on the All-Pro team for the first time since 2018 and generally was just less impactful this season. If Los Angeles views it as a sign of things to come rather than a down year that came amidst chaos and non-competitive games, the team will look to move him.
He will certainly have suitors aplenty. Good cornerbacks are hard to come by. Here are three potential trade destinations for Ramsey.
The Lions allowed the third-most passing yards in the NFL this season end and the secondary is the weakest part of the roster. Detroit has a plan and trading for a 28-year-old corner slated to make $17 million with a $25 million dead cap hit in 2023 is probably not part of that plan. But if GM Brad Holmes is big on Ramsey after working with him for two years in LA, a deal could definitely be made. The Lions aren’t going to give Los Angeles their No. 6 overall pick back but the second Lions’ first-rounder could be in play. Ramsey’s personality is volatile enough that the risk could be too great for what Holmes is building in the Motor City. But Ramsey also seems like he’d be the epitome of a Dan Campbell guy if he bought all the way in. A lot to consider.
If the Rams are looking to send Ramsey off to a bad team absolutely desperate to infuse its defense with talent and willing to give up anything to do it, Atlanta is the top option. The Falcons’ defense is heinous, an offense to the eyes, and resides in a division with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and now Chris Olave. The Falcons need another cornerback to help AJ Terrell. Ramsey could be that guy. Atlanta is painfully aware of how far it is from competing, so squeezing the team for quality draft capital could be tough. But the aforementioned desperation factor could play a big role and the Falcons should be interested no matter what.
As a former linebacker and quasi-Belichick disciple, I cannot imagine how angry Mike Vrabel was with his pass defense this year. The Titans gave up 4,671 yards and 29 touchdowns through the air in 2022. The former number was the worst in the league by more than 100 yards, and the latter was tied for second-worst. It’s a shame because the front seven was dominant at times. The Titans have a lot to figure out in terms of their short-term future — and they just hired a new GM — but if the Rams are interested in dumping salary more than getting a substantial return, Tennessee will be in the running.