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FAB 1. Will The Bucs Trade For Ramsey?
In the Madden football video game, you make the trade.
You acquire Jacksonville Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey for the Jaguars.
But in real life, you don’t make that trade if you are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a myriad of reasons.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht won’t, and here’s why.
With nine tackles and one pass defensed, Ramsey has a Pro Football Focus overall grade of 48.9 through two games this year, and posted just a 72.8 grade last year while making his second Pro Bowl.
According to PFF, his best season was in 2017 when he had an elite grade of 90.6, which was his highest. That was also his first year as a Pro Bowler and his first and only season as an All-Pro.
Ramsey, the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, is in a contract year in Jacksonville. The Florida State product had 44 pass breakups, nine interceptions and one forced fumble in his first three seasons.
The 24-year old is a very good cornerback, and he wants out of Jacksonville, but the Jaguars won’t let him go for anything less than a first-round pick – and likely much more. After spending four high draft picks on cornerbacks in the past two seasons – five if you count Licht’s drafting of Vernon Hargreaves III in the first round in 2016 – the last thing Tampa Bay needs to do is trade away a first-rounder and more for Ramsey. The Bucs have other holes to fill in 2020 and that first-rounder would be better spent elsewhere.
Whichever team trades for Ramsey had better be prepared to back up the Brinks truck to his locker because he wants to be the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL, although he might not be the best cornerback in the league. New England’s Stephon Gilmore Detroit’s Darius Slay, Chicago’s Kyle Fuller and Miami’s Xavien Howard are also in the running.
Howard and Washington’s Josh Norman are making $15 million per year, followed by the New York Jets’ Trumaine Johnson, Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes, Arizona’s Patrick Peterson and Fuller, who are all making at $14 million. Ramsey is looking for a deal that would make him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL – by a wide margin.
He wants a deal that totally resets the market for cornerbacks.
Remember when I said a team needs a Brinks truck for all the cash he wants? Ramsey literally showed up to the first day of training camp in Jacksonville this year … in an armored bank truck.
Between the draft pick compensation and the salary demands, which would not allow the Bucs to re-sign some of their own players in 2020, perhaps outside linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Carl Nassib, or maybe Hargreaves. And acquiring Ramsey, who played together at Florida State with Tampa Bay quarterback, would squeeze the salary cap that re-signing Winston to a long-term contract extension or using the franchise tag on him would be problematic.
Bucs director of football administration Mike Greenberg, the team’s cap wizard, is probably breaking out in a cold sweat just reading this SR’s Fab 5 and imagining all the cap maneuvering it would take to get Ramsey under contract – and keep Tampa Bay under the salary cap.
There’s no doubt that Ramsey is a big-time talent. But is he worth all that would be involved in order to acquire him?
Ramsey can be a bit of a headache. He’s very outspoken and some might dismiss that as him just “wanting to win” or being “ultra competitive.”
But in reality, Ramsey has clashed with the media before, which prompted the team to briefly suspend him in August of 2018, and most recently getting in a sideline confrontation with head coach Doug Marrone in last week’s 13-12 loss at Houston.
How is Ramsey going to act when he gets paid close to $20 million per year? Will he be happy and satisfied or will he feel untouchable and be emboldened to act out even more?
By trading away wide receiver DeSean Jackson and releasing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the Bucs have rid themselves of any divas in the locker room. Jackson was much more of a problem and diva than McCoy ever was, but McCoy had a little diva in him for sure while he was in Tampa Bay in that he had a big ego and loved to be the center of attention.
I’ve never seen a Bucs locker room this ego-less before. Not that having a big ego is a bad thing.
The 2002 Super Bowl Buccaneers had plenty of big egos in the locker room between defensive tackle Warren Sapp, defensive end Simeon Rice, wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and head coach Jon Gruden among others.
But for a young Tampa Bay team that still doesn’t know how to win over an entire season and hasn’t been to the playoffs in over a decade, the Bucs need less “me” and more “we.”
And that’s exactly the kind of roster that Licht and head coach Bruce Arians have put together this year.
The Jaguars have received “substantive inquiries” from the Chiefs, Ravens, Vikings, Raiders, Eagles and Seahawks, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson. And yes, the Bucs inquired, but quickly hung up the phone when learning of Ramsey’s contract demands and Jacksonville’s trade demands.
If the NFL really were like Madden where ego and attitude don’t exist, maybe Licht and the Bucs give a little more consideration to trading for Ramsey.
But the Bucs have several young cornerbacks on the team that are worth developing in Hargreaves, M.J. Stewart, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting. None of them may become the caliber of player that Ramsey is, but they all just might be good enough to star in Todd Bowles’ defense and make enough plays to justify their high draft pick status.
And with possible contract extensions on the horizon for players like Winston, Hargreaves, Nassib, Barrett, wide receiver Chris Godwin and tight end O.J. Howard, the Bucs’ cap room will need to be allocated elsewhere than in a cornerback making just under $20 million per year.