THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Jalen Ramsey showed up at Jacksonville Jaguars training camp last year in an armored bank truck.
A year later on the opposite coast, he’s going to need that ride.
Ramsey will become the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history after agreeing to a five-year, $105 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Rams on Wednesday.
The extension includes $71.2 million in guaranteed money, the most ever given to a defensive back, according to Ramsey’s agent, David Mulugheta. Ramsey will average $21 million per season, another record for a cornerback or safety.
The deal is the culmination of a strong 11-month relationship between Ramsey and the Rams, who traded two first-round draft picks to acquire the shutdown corner from Jacksonville.
“It’s a well-earned contract,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “I know it’s something that he was glad to get out of the way as well.”
Ramsey will make $13.7 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract, and the new deal keeps him with the Rams through 2025. Sticking to their weekly media availability schedule, the Rams don’t plan to make Ramsey available to discuss the contract until Friday. He took the field at the Rams’ training complex a bit later than his teammates for Wednesday’s workout.
The extension is another massive commitment by the Rams, who have handed out the largest contracts in NFL history at the time for a quarterback (Jared Goff), a running back (Todd Gurley), any defensive player (Aaron Donald) and a defensive back in a major spending spree since July 2018. The Rams made the Super Bowl for the 2018 season but lost to New England.
Los Angeles acquired Ramsey from Jacksonville last October after the cornerback requested a trade. Ramsey had one interception and four pass deflections in nine games with the Rams while earning his third straight Pro Bowl selection.
Ramsey arrived in Los Angeles with a reputation for contentiousness forged during the last years of his tenure with Tom Coughlin’s dysfunctional Jaguars. The Rams have had an entirely different experience with Ramsey.
“Even going back to when he first got here, the way that he practiced, the reception to coaching was (great),” McVay said. “And how he led from afar, being able to get guys together this offseason, taking ownership of a bunch of different things, understanding the big picture of the defense.”
That exemplary effort continued in the coronavirus-influenced offseason. He vowed not to hold out, took leadership in team workouts and even devoted himself to providing tips to the Rams’ receivers.
“The more I get to know him, the more I appreciate him,” McVay said. “He’s extremely intelligent and aware of everything that’s going on. He knows the game.”
Ramsey has only 10 career interceptions, and he has never been in the top 10 in interceptions during his four NFL seasons. That’s largely because quarterbacks stay away from his side of the field, and Ramsey is also a willing hitter with at least 50 tackles in each of his four NFL seasons.
“There’s a competitive endurance that certain people have to not take snaps off,” McVay said. “Especially in those instances where you are that kind of elite player, you don’t get a lot of action. But when you do get that action, you want to maximize those opportunities. Aaron has that, too.”
Ramsey is now officially a cornerstone of the Rams’ revamped defense alongside Donald, who has a six-year, $135 million contract through 2024.
His first 3 1/2 NFL seasons in Jacksonville were marked by acrimony, both over his contract and his concerns about the team’s direction. Ramsey famously pulled the bank truck stunt to emphasize his desire for a massive extension, but his dissatisfaction with coach Doug Marrone and Coughlin led him to ask to leave.
Ramsey clearly has no concerns about the direction of the Rams, who barely missed the playoffs last season while going 9-7. Los Angeles general manager Les Snead is unafraid to pay elite talent, although it doesn’t always work out: He had to release Gurley in March before the star running back’s massive extension ever kicked in.
Ramsey seemed to immediately enjoy Los Angeles, where he once committed to play for USC before ending up at Florida State.
He went shopping for lavish houses during an early episode of the current season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” and he called the day he was traded by Jacksonville “one of the best days of my life.”
Ramsey also recently committed to donate $1 million to Purpose Preparatory Academy, a school in his native Nashville.
Ramsey is likely to be more than just a cornerback this season with the Rams, who hired new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to shake up their scheme despite an above-average defensive season in 2019. Ramsey has said he’ll play several roles on the new defense, not just as a cover cornerback assigned to one receiver.
The Rams have roughly $34 million in dead money on their salary cap this season, largely due to the lavish contracts given to Gurley and receiver Brandin Cooks, who was traded to Houston in the offseason just one year into his deal. In 2021, they’ll have to start paying the extensions for Goff and Ramsey, two of the top five picks in the 2016 draft.
The Rams also are discussing a contract extension with receiver Cooper Kupp, a third-round pick in 2017 who has played his way into an important role in McVay’s offense. Safety John Johnson is also due for an extension at some point soon, but Ramsey’s deal will make it harder to pay another burgeoning talent.
The Rams open their season Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium, their new home.
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