When the surprising news broke Tuesday that the Los Angeles Rams had traded cornerback Marcus Peters, Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell kept his cards close to the vest — and his iPhone even closer.
It wasn’t hard to do the math: With the Rams having placed one former All-Pro cornerback (Aqib Talib) on injured reserve just before dealing another (Peters) to the Baltimore Ravens, L.A.’s secondary suddenly had a serious hole. And with Jalen Ramsey, perhaps the NFL’s most talented corner, seemingly dug in on forcing his way out of Jacksonville, Caldwell figured he might be hearing from Rams general manager Les Snead.
Sure enough, Caldwell soon thereafter got a call from Snead, his friend and former Atlanta Falcons front-office colleague. Within an hour, they had worked out a blockbuster deal — approved by Jags owner Shad Khan — that sent Ramsey to L.A. for first-round picks in each of the next two drafts and a 2021 fourth-round selection.
For the Jaguars (2-4), it was the chance to move on from a distracting saga that surfaced after a sideline spat between Ramsey, the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and coach Doug Marrone during a Sept. 15 game against the Houston Texans. Those familiar with the current organizational mindset insist that the Jags, who have struggled since reaching the 2017 AFC Championship Game, are not giving up on the season and believe they can rally in the wake of the discontented player’s departure.
For the Rams (3-3), the trade sent a clear message to the locker room that, despite Sunday’s humbling defeat to the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers and a current three-game losing streak, the defending conference champions are in an aggressive pursuit of another Super Bowl run. As one key organizational decision-maker said Tuesday night, “Hey man — we’re in it to win it. Jalen Ramsey is a top-five-draft-pick type of player in any and every draft there is. When you get a player like that, it’s exciting. And whether you’re inside our building or outside, you see that and say, ‘They’re swinging for the fences.’ Let’s roll.”
And for Ramsey? The flamboyant, outspoken player who showed up to training camp this summer in an armored truck full of phony bank money bags — driven by a man who exclaimed into a megaphone, “It’s time to get this money, money!” — well, he pretty much got what he wanted. Currently in the final year of his rookie deal and set to make $13.7 million via the already exercised club option in 2020, Ramsey almost certainly will receive a lucrative extension from the Rams placing him at the top of the cornerback market.
In essence, he’s being validated for some recent behavior that many powerbrokers around the league viewed as borderline unprofessional — and which helped create a strained workplace environment that tested the bonds between players and coaches.
Ramsey, through his agent, reportedly asked for a trade the day after the sideline incident with Marrone. After playing in a “Thursday Night Football” defeat to the Tennessee Titans three days later, Ramsey missed time for a series of reasons (flu, birth of his child, hamstring and back injuries) and skipped each of the Jags’ next three games.
Last Thursday, Jacksonville owner Shad Khan told The Street’s Katherine Ross, “[Ramsey] is going to be playing this week.
“You got to balance what’s good for the team with what the individual maybe wishes might be. … I met him a couple of days ago, had a heart-to-heart, and I think we’ll be able to come to whatever is best for all.”
Over the past month, Caldwell had received interest from numerous teams, at least one of which proposed sending two first-round picks in exchange for Ramsey, with another offering a first-rounder and a player regarded as having first-round value. That wasn’t enough to get the Jaguars to part ways with the two-time Pro Bowler, but with the Rams also including a fourth-round selection, they were willing to consummate the deal on Tuesday. For what it’s worth, L.A. now has three players drafted in the first round by the Jags since 2014: Ramsey, pass rusher Dante Fowler and backup quarterback Blake Bortles.
Obviously, the Rams aren’t overly concerned with Ramsey’s lingering presence on the injury report with the back ailment, given what they were willing to give up to get him. They believe the ultra-positive, accountable culture established by third-year coach Sean McVay will bring out the best in Ramsey; they’re also quite likely to throw money at the problem. The reasoning, for the Rams, was simple: Peters’ contract expires after this season, and to retain him L.A. would have had to compensate him like one of the league’s top corners. Ramsey will cost even more, but the team clearly would rather pay him than Peters.
The deal provided a psychological boost to a team reeling from the first three-game losing streak of the McVay era. The Rams, who also traded for backup Browns offensive lineman Austin Corbett on Tuesday, may be staring up at the Niners (5-0) and Seattle Seahawks (5-1) in the division, but they’re decidedly not backing down. There were high-fives and hand-slaps in the building after Snead broke the news to coaches and other team officials.
As one player said Tuesday evening, “Hopefully, this gives us some juice.”
Meanwhile, Peters will suit up for the Ravens on Sunday in Seattle, joining former Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas on a defense that has not performed to its 2018 level. Baltimore recently lost safeties Tony Jefferson and DeShon Elliott to season-ending injuries, and veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith remains out of action with a sprained MCL.
Peters, who was impressive during the Rams‘ postseason run last year — he was particularly prolific during the team’s 13-3 defeat to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII — conceded that he was surprised by the news he’d been traded for the second time in 20 months.
“Hell yeah,” he said, via text message Tuesday night, “but you know how s— goes.”
He also said he was excited about joining an organization with a rich defensive tradition.
“They’ve got a good football team,” he said. “I just wanna play football. That’s it.”
The Rams are banking on Ramsey playing football at an even higher level, and doing so with a minimal amount of drama.
Follow Michael Silver on Twitter @MikeSilver.