Jalen Ramsey worth the price but gives Rams another huge contract to work around

How do NFL executives feel about Jalen Ramsey? (0:43)

Jeremy Fowler explains why NFL executives expect Jalen Ramsey to be the No. 1 cornerback in the league a year from now. (0:43)

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Jalen Ramsey casually walked onto the practice field Wednesday, passing a group of reporters who eagerly snapped photos and video of the Los Angeles Rams' cornerback.

"Why you guys all filming him," Rams assistant Joe Barry yelled, "What happened?"

Barry, of course, was being facetious. It's unlikely anyone within the Rams' organization could have missed the news shared 7½ hours earlier on social media by Ramsey's agent, David Mulugheta.

In a graphic that included money flying out the back of a Brinks armored truck -- perhaps an ode to Ramsey's transportation a year ago when he arrived at training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars -- Mulugheta announced that Ramsey and the Rams agreed to terms on a five-year, $105 million extension that included $71.2 million guaranteed at signing.

It's the most lucrative contract for a defensive back in NFL history, provides Ramsey the $20 million annual salary he was seeking and cements his long-term status with the Rams as they prepare to open the season Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium.

"Well-earned contract," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "Definitely glad, and I know it's something he was glad to get out of the way as well."

After sending first-round picks in 2020 and 2021, along with a 2021 fourth-round pick, to the Jaguars last October to acquire Ramsey, it was all but guaranteed that the Rams would find a way to sign Ramsey to a long-term extension. The cost of the trade demanded it. So does Ramsey's talent.

Ramsey, who turns 26 in October, is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and a 2017 All-Pro. Since the Jaguars selected him with the fifth overall pick in 2016, Ramsey has 10 career interceptions. He immediately made the Rams' defense better following his Week 7 debut last season. The defense gave up nearly five fewer points per game and significantly fewer passing yards per game. The lockdown cornerback's presence also made a difference up front, as the defense had twice as many sacks per game when Ramsey was in the lineup, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

However, as valuable as Ramsey is, his contract is the latest in a run of record-breaking deals that will consume a significant amount of the Rams' salary cap moving forward, which will require that they continue to evaluate, draft and develop mid-round talent to remain competitive as they attempt to bounce back from a 9-7 season that resulted in a third-place finish in the NFC West.

Over the past two years, the Rams have signed four players to record-breaking deals.

In July 2018, Todd Gurley II signed a four-year, $60 million extension that included a record $5 million guaranteed for a running back. A month later, Aaron Donald became the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history when he signed a six-year, $135 million deal. Last September, quarterback Jared Goff signed a four-year, $134 million extension that included an NFL-record $110 million guaranteed.

The Rams cut Gurley in March, costing $11.8 million in dead money this season.

The salaries of Goff, Donald and Ramsey amount to an average of $77 million per season.

Ramsey's extension is structured to provide flexibility if the NFL salary cap drops next season, which is a near certainty as the league deals with the financial ramifications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Regardless, with three megadeals on their payroll and no first-round pick until 2022, the Rams must continue to foster young talent to fill the spots around their pricey trio.

ESPN NFL front office insider Mike Tannenbaum called it a "great problem to have" when building around Goff, Donald and Ramsey.

But it can create a challenging puzzle.

"You want to make it work from a cap standpoint," Tannenbaum said. "Hitting on those mid-round picks becomes consequential."

The Rams' 2017 draft class produced third-round pick Cooper Kupp, a 1,000-yard receiver who is expected to sign an extension before the opener.

Safety John Johnson III, receiver Josh Reynolds and outside linebacker Samson Ebukam also were selected with mid-round picks in 2017, and each will start in Week 1.

However, with a finite amount of cap space, the Rams will be forced to pick and choose who will be offered an extension to return next season.