Jalen Ramsey Deserves a New Deal, but Today's NFL Likely to Keep Him Waiting

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJune 13, 2019

Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey walks to the field at an NFL football practice, Tuesday, June 11, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

The Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey is one of the most gifted defensive players in the NFL. He's smart, fast and powerful. When Ramsey is at his best, he can disrupt an entire passing game. He's the type of player every team in the league would want.

Yet Ramsey, like most players in the league, is finding out how little true power he has off the field. Despite being named to two Pro Bowls and earning first-team All-Pro honors in his second season, Ramsey told reporters this week that the Jaguars informed him he would not be getting an offer for a new deal this year.

What's happening to Ramsey is a good illustration of which players actually have power in the NFL, and which players are still at the mercy of their teams.

Ramsey is a foundational piece for the Jaguars, but he's still a defensive back. While DBs are arguably the best pure athletes in all of sports, in the NFL they are still seen as highly replaceable. No matter what they've accomplished, no matter how talented they are, they are viewed as cogs who can easily be tossed aside like pieces of plastic in the recycling bin.

This may sound harsh, but it's true. Tom Coughlin, the old-school executive vice president of football operations of the Jaguars, loves Ramsey but historically has built around quarterbacks, offensive tackles and maybe pass-rushers (especially if look at his best Giants teams). That's about it.

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Defensive backs? Pfffft. Whatever.

Ramsey has two years remaining on his deal, so there's no need to panic. But I guarantee you that if Ramsey were a quarterback or wide receiver, he'd be getting an extension now. He'd get what he wanted.

Ramsey isn't the only one waiting on the Jaguars. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue held out from the team's three-day mandatory minicamp this week in protest of not getting the new deal he also feels he deserves but isn't getting. 

Ramsey told reporters he isn't upset, but rival teams think he might hold out during training camp. They suspect the same could happen with Ngakoue.

"As long as I'm a part of this organization, as long as I'm a part of Duval County, I'm going to give the city and the players all I've got, and I think y'all know that," Ramsey said, according to ESPN.com. "I've fought through injuries. I've fought through everything, haven't missed a game. I think I'm in a similar situation as Yan [Ngakoue], as where I feel like I have outplayed my rookie contract and I feel I've earned a new contract.

Jalen Ramsey made 65 tackles last season for the Jaguars, 62 of them unassisted.
Jalen Ramsey made 65 tackles last season for the Jaguars, 62 of them unassisted.Tim Warner/Getty Images

"But at the end of the day, it's not the end of the world. I'm tremendously blessed. I'm so blessed. I'm not down on it or anything like that at all, but that is the circumstance. That is what I've been told."

Ramsey is not alone in his feelings about his desire for a new deal commensurate with his production, not his potential. He's like a number of younger players who feel they've outplayed their rookie deals. They look around the sport and see owners, quarterbacks and others making tons of money, and they want their part of that expanding financial pie. Why should they have to wait until there's some mythical point where they are allowed to redo their deals?

Teams have countered this line of thinking by saying a deal is a deal, and they say—not the player—when it's time to do a new contract.

But not all the time, especially if the player is a quarterback. Look around the league and see who is mostly getting uber-rich new deals (and, in some cases, several years before their current contracts expire). Aaron Rodgers got the bag. Carson Wentz got the bag. Russell Wilson got two. Ramsey's new teammate, quarterback Nick Foles, got himself a nice little bag. Dak Prescott will likely get one soon.

Ramsey wants his own bag, and it's hard to blame him.

Take the Wentz deal, for example. Wentz and Ramsey both came into the league in 2016, but because of injuries Wentz hasn't finished a season since his rookie year and has yet to play in a postseason game. The Eagles still gave him a monster extension despite their being two years left on his rookie deal. Ramsey hasn't missed a game and has been a key part of a defense that has ranked among the NFL's five stingiest in passing yards allowed in each of his three seasons. Yet, no new deal.

There are non-quarterbacks getting paid, of course, such as the Raiders' Antonio Brown or the Browns' Odell Beckham Jr. The Falcons' Julio Jones is next.

Mostly, though, while salaries skyrocket for all players, there are still tiers in the NFL: one for quarterbacks and a handful of players at other positions, and one for everyone else.

That is, unless a player leaves. If you look at the contracts defensive backs are getting in free agency, they are often bigger than the deals they got from the teams that drafted them. Look at the names: Stephon Gilmore, Janoris Jenkins, Josh Norman, Trumaine Johnson, A.J. Bouye and Malcolm Butler, to name a few. It's one of the few positions that regularly hit free agency for big money.

After helping the Patriots reach the Super Bowl in three out of his four seasons with the team, cornerback Malcolm Butler was allowed to leave in free agency, where he signed a five-year, $61.3 million contract with Tennessee in 2018.
After helping the Patriots reach the Super Bowl in three out of his four seasons with the team, cornerback Malcolm Butler was allowed to leave in free agency, where he signed a five-year, $61.3 million contract with Tennessee in 2018.James Kenney/Associated Press/Associated Press

Some well-deserving players have earned extensions with their original teams of late (Xavien Howard, Xavier Rhodes, Kyle Fuller), but their fully guaranteed money ranks among the lowest of any of the deals in the top 10. And though Patrick Peterson did become one of the few to get monster money from his original team, that contract is now entering its fourth year.

Now it should be Ramsey's turn. True, he didn't have the greatest season last year (none of the Jaguars did), but he's still among the league's elite defensive players, capable of covering elite receivers for large swaths of a game one-on-one. And he's only 24.

He's also underpaid, but for now, there's little he can do about it.

           

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter:@mikefreemanNFL.


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