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September 17, 2019

Should the Eagles have interest in trading for Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey?

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091719JalenRamsey Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Ramsey

Hey look! There's a star player on the trading block, it seems, and whenever that happens, reporters from the 31 other teams wonder if that player is worth pursuing. Here we'll do that with Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who had a heated confrontation with head coach Doug Morrone, and wants out of Jacksonville.

To begin, Ramsey is a great player. He was the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and has been absolutely worthy of that high selection since entering the league. In 2017, he was a First-Team All-Pro, and has been to the Pro Bowl in each of the last two years.

He's a big, 6'1, 208-pound corner who isn't just big. He's also an exceptional athlete:

In his first three seasons with the Jaguars, Ramsey had 193 tackles, 9 INTs, and an impressive 44 pass breakups, even with opposing quarterbacks being more willing to attack other parts of the Jacksonville defense.

He's still only 24 (he'll turn 25 in October), and some believe that he is already the best cornerback in the NFL.

Let's review the considerations.

Contract

Ramsey's cap number in 2019 is a modest $7,429,863. Any acquiring team would only be responsible for his base salary of $3,634,227, which will go lower and lower with each passing week until he's dealt. Earlier this offseason, the Jaguars exercised Ramsey's fifth-year option, which will count for $13,703,000 on the 2020 cap.

He is currently a very cost-effective player, and if the Eagles were to acquire him, they could work out a long-term deal structured in a way that they prefer.

Cost to acquire

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, it sounds like the conversation starts with a first-round pick, and goes from there. 

If Ramsey is available for a first-round pick, then yes, the Eagles should oblige. 

He won't be, however, especially given the extreme price that the Steelers, a team that could realistically be picking in the top 10 in the 2020 NFL Draft, just paid for a lesser defensive back in Minkah Fitzpatrick. Here are the details of that trade, in case you missed it: 

For a team like the Eagles, who most would project to be picking near the end of the first round, it would almost certainly cost considerably more than a first-round pick to land Ramsey.

How severe is the Eagles' need at outside corner?

To begin, if you have an opportunity to land arguably the best cornerback in the game, you obviously kick the tires. Ramsey would be a significant upgrade over every corner on the roster.

The question is, what kind of shape are the Eagles in right now at corner?

For a reason that isn't clear to me, Ronald Darby is starting, and playing more snaps than Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, even though it is clear as day that he is not fully recovered from his torn ACL. His speed is missing, and for a guy who is not a very physical player, he needs his speed to be effective.

Jones and Douglas, meanwhile, are still young corners who could use some experience. They have both shown good and bad.

Coming off a loss to the Falcons in which Darby was roasted often, as well as a poor first half for the Eagles' defense overall against what should be an inept Washington offense, recency bias might make some overreact, and attempt to over-correct a concern area. Or maybe they're just not that good? It's unclear how the Eagles' brass feels.

Positional importance

The Eagles use all kinds of analytics that help guide their roster-building decision-making, but the super-simplified version of their team-building philosophy dates back to the Andy Reid era, which appeared in a 2016 Sports Illustrated piece by Jenny Vrentas

I want two offensive tackles, a quarterback, two pass rushers, two corners, and I’ll figure the rest out.

The basics of Reid's positional preferences were clearly adopted by Howie Roseman, as the team has continued to build the roster in that way, even after Reid's departure after the 2012 season. Here's how they look presently at those high-priority positions:

• Quarterback: Check.

• Two offensive tackles: Check.

• Two pass rushers: Eh. Maybe?

• Two corners: Still a concern area.

Ramsey would check one of the cornerback boxes for the foreseeable future, assuming a trade for him would also result in an eventual contract extension. However, I do think the Eagles would prefer an impact pass rusher. Would they be better served waiting for one of those to become available (again) instead?

Culture

Ramsey is highly outspoken, and he did just get into an verbal altercation with his head coach, followed by a trade demand. 

I don't know who was in the right and who was in the wrong there, but that's a red flag.

Conclusion

¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

The cost to acquire Ramsey, as well as how the Eagles would view him as a culture fit, are two major unknowns. If Ramsey is actually made available by Jacksonville, the bet here is that there will be another team out there willing to pay a steeper price.


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