It’s not often a mid-season trade for a defender can flip the fortunes of an NFL team, though cornerback Jalen Ramsey may be able to do exactly that, since the Los Angeles Rams secured a trade for the superstar corner on Tuesday. The Rams mortgaged more of their future as they moved two first-round draft picks (2020, 2021) and a fourth-round pick (2021) to the Jacksonville Jaguars, in exchange for Ramsey’s services.
While the price may seem extreme – and it is – it could pay off in large dividends for a Rams team looking for a spark. Losing back-to-back divisional games is tough, especially when you find yourself 2.5 games behind the first-placed San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West, which is potentially why the Rams looked to make an addition that could flip the fortunes for them.
Looking at the numbers (per Football Outsiders), the Rams’ defense ranked 5th in run defense DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) and 20th in pass defense DVOA. Locating the weakness on defense, the Rams shipped out former starting cornerback Marcus Peters as a salary dump, and replaced him with one of the best – if not the best – cornerback in football, in hopes that Ramsey’s addition and talent can morph the defense into the unit Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips is hoping to deploy.
Ramsey was in favor of being moved to a team that will allow him to play man-to-man coverage, and with the addition of Ramsey and subtraction of Peters, the Rams are signaling they’re in favor of transitioning from a zone-based defense to a man-based one. The addition of a player of Ramsey’s caliber allows a defense to focus more on the opposite cornerback. Ideally, Ramsey would travel with a specific receiver (typically a #1 receiver), and the Rams would matchup the second cornerback on another receiver (Aqib Talib when healthy, Troy Hill currently) with the help of a safety shaded to his direction, offering help as it’ll likely be needed.
Betting on the Rams’ odds after this move could become a sneaky move, mainly because of the potential impact that Ramsey could have on the defense as an entirety. Not only that, but with the Rams currently in 3rd place in the NFC West (two games back from 2nd, 2.5 games back from 1st), the odds are favorable in terms of a potential splash.
Offensively, the Rams have yet to truly find their footing, though the belief is they have enough talent and schematic advantages from Head Coach Sean McVay to get the job done on that side of the ball. Defensively, the Rams lacked true superstar talent – outside of defensive tackle Aaron Donald – that could consistently perform at an elite level. The addition of Ramsey definitely brings that, and more.
Just recently, the Rams placed both starting safety John Johnson III and starting cornerback Aqib Talib on the injured reserve, with both suffering long-term injuries, though Talib was placed on the list with the designation to return later in the season (minimum of eight weeks). Ramsey’s addition comes at the perfect time, as the under-performing unit has lost three starters (Peters trade) in the past week, and generally needed an addition that could make a difference.
Looking at what’s next for the Rams may soften the blow of three consecutive losses, with the Rams slated to face the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, and Pittsburgh Steelers in the coming weeks. Just as quickly as the Rams dropped to 3-3, they could rebound to 6-3, building the necessary momentum to move forward, and ultimately close the gap in the NFC West in the process.