Seven years after passing on cornerback Jalen Ramsey to take running back Ezekiel Elliott in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys are again being linked to the star cornerback. Ramsey is reportedly on the trade block with the Los Angeles Rams and the Cowboys, needing help at CB, are naturally being discussed as a potential landing spot. How much sense would it make for Dallas to pursue Ramsey this offseason?
There’s no denying the value of adding Ramsey based on sheer talent. Even after seven seasons and at age 28, Jalen is still one of the best corners in the league. He finished 2022 with four interceptions, matching his career high, and set new highs with 88 tackles and 18 pass deflections. Despite offseason shoulder surgery, Ramsey started all 17 games for the Rams last season.
There’s also no debate that the Cowboys could get better at cornerback. Trevon Diggs is just fine in one starting spot but Anthony Brown struggled in 2022 before going down with injury. Rookie DaRon Bland was a revelation coming out of just the fifth round but, especially after Jourdan Lewis was also lost, Dallas was still shorthanded in the latter part of the year and postseason. Neither Kelvin Joseph nor Nahshon Wright was ready to step into a larger role, and that red flag still hangs over them this offseason.
Brown is about to become a free agent and shouldn’t be brought back as a starter, if at all. Lewis could also be gone as a salary cap casualty, especially with Bland also best suited to play in the slot. That leaves the Cowboys with a big decision to make near the top of the CB depth chart.
Oh yeah, that salary cap thing
If we didn’t have to worry about pesky things like the salary cap and contracts and draft compensation, adding Jalen Ramsey to the group would be a dream. He’d elevate the level of play while also bringing some championship pedigree to the defense. He also has all of that marketable personality that the Jones family loves. While not quite on the same level, it would almost feel like when Dallas signed a certain “Prime Time” cornerback ahead of the 1995 season.
But like Deion back then, Ramsey won’t be cheap. Aside from giving up whatever the Rams want in a trade, his base salary for 2023 is $17 million. It would be $14.5 million and $15.5 million the next two years, assuming the Cowboys leave the contract untouched.
Dallas could easily work out an immediate restructure to reduce Ramsey’s cap hit for at least this year, which would make sense if you’re going to trade for him at all. Giving up the kind of draft assets that the Cowboys will have to in this deal means you better have supreme confidence in the guy you’re acquiring.
Just how steep could that trade price be? With Ramsey still in his prime and playing like it, a first-round pick would likely be the beginning of any trade that Los Angeles would accept. With Dallas’ first pick in 2023 not coming until #26, the Rams will likely expect even more to make this happen.
Does it make sense with context?
That’s where things get sticky for the Cowboys. Adding a singular talent like Jalen Ramsey sounds so tempting, but he’s still just a single player. With everything that the Cowboys are facing on the roster this offseason, between a high number of free agents and big decisions around some of their contracted veterans, this move may just be too expensive right now. It only solves one of your 53 roster spots. Even if Ramsey would make a lot of other guys better, no defender can make up for glaring holes elsewhere.
What’s more, Trevon Diggs is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Given where they are right now with the cap, it’s hard to imagine Dallas being able to afford both Ramsey and Diggs going forward. It would make a lot more sense to use their 2023 first-round pick on a new starter at CB, making for a much better financial fit with Trevon once he gets his second contract.
That’s where this move greatly differs from what Dallas did all those years ago with Deion Sanders. They had the luxury, in the infancy of free agency and before the salary cap had become so dictatorial, to add Prime to a championship roster. Unfortunately, the 2023 Dallas Cowboys are still trying to build another contender.
Jalen Ramsey would certainly help, but at what cost? Unless the Rams are more desperate to unload him than we understand, it would seem that the asking price will be too prohibitive for the Cowboys. They need their draft picks to restock multiple spots and have their own big-name cornerback to pay in the very near future. While it would make a great story, especially given the choice Dallas made in the 2016 NFL Draft, it just doesn’t feel like the right move.