Jalen Ramsey Provides Something the Vikings Need But Can't Afford

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Rumor has it that the Minnesota Vikings are expected to check on the availability of Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Ramsey is the crème de la crème of cornerbacks in the league. He is a three-time All-Pro corner who just earned his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance. He was a major contributor on a team that’s only one year removed from winning the Super Bowl, even if that feels like an eternity ago.

If Minnesota traded for Ramsey, the talent level in the cornerback room would significantly increase. Not only that, but his presence alone would elevate the Vikings defense as a whole. Ramsey provides something Minnesota desperately needs in their secondary, but the Vikings can’t afford to trade for him for myriad reasons.

The Rams would demand a haul for Ramsey. The Vikings would need to offer their first-round pick before they could have any meaningful discussion with the Rams’ front office. LA currently has six picks in this year’s draft. Only two (a second and a third) are on Day 2 of the draft. The rest are sixth- and seventh-round picks.

The Rams are at a crossroads this offseason. Aaron Donald and Sean McVay have been mulling retirement over the past couple of years. Even though McVay is returning in 2023, he still gave his assistant coaches permission to interview for job openings across the NFL and the college ranks. Offensive coordinator Liam Cohen accepted a job at Kentucky, and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is in the running to be a head coach this offseason. If the Rams trade Ramsey, it could signal a full rebuild in Los Angeles – or a “competitive rebuild,” at least.

Even if the Vikings were willing to give the Rams a boatload of picks for Ramsey, Minnesota would still need to create enough cap room to take on his contract. That certainly isn’t an impossible feat, given that they have cap-wizard Rob Brzezinski in the front office. The Vikings could create $27 million in cap space in 2023 if they follow Luke Braun’s offseason plan. Ramsey has a $25 million cap hit next season, and the Vikings draft class would cost roughly $6 million pending trades.

Using basic math: $27 million in available cap space, minus the $31 million reduction in cap space, equals negative $4 million. So worst-case scenario, the Vikings are $4 million over the cap. They could renegotiate with Eric Kendricks to get under the cap. Kendricks has an $11.43 million cap hit in 2023, which they could reduce by $4 million if he agrees to a pay cut. If he declines, Minnesota can either add a void year to his deal or cut him and save $9.5 million. Regardless of the method used to save money on Kendricks’ deal, the Vikings would barely be under the salary cap.

So yes, the Vikings could find a way to make the money work if they wanted to. However, just because they can doesn’t mean they should. Ramsey will be 29 years old next season, and Father Time catches up to everyone. Maybe the Vikings can get two to three productive years out of Ramsey, but is it really worth it? That’s a big gamble on a player who could easily be past his prime by the time he plays his first snap in Minnesota. Fans can point to the T.J. Hockenson trade as a sign of the front office’s willingness to make a big move, but Hockenson is still on his rookie deal. That’s not the case with Ramsey.

Aside from age, draft capital, and regular capital, the Vikings must consider the opportunity cost. By trading for Ramsey, there will be less playing time for all of their young cornerbacks. I’m sure Kwesi Adofo-Mensah considers Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans a big part of this team’s future. Then there are guys like Cameron Dantzler and Duke Shelley, who showed some promise this season. Patrick Peterson has been a leader for the Vikings secondary and had a solid year in 2022. The Vikings wouldn’t be able to justify keeping Peterson if Ramsey came to town, and their young corners would miss his leadership.

And Ramsey doesn’t provide the same level of veteran leadership that Peterson does. If anything, he’s a net negative in that department. Ramsey is well-known for his ego. He loves talking trash to his opponents before games, giving them bulletin board material. He’ll talk trash during the game, which is fine until he starts a brawl and gets suspended for it. He loves firing off cryptic tweets, something the fanbase loathed when Stefon Diggs was in Minnesota. Despite being an elite player, he’s not the greatest guy to have in the locker room.

The biggest reason why trading for Ramsey is a bad idea is that he doesn’t fit this team’s timeline. The Vikings are not a player away from making a Super Bowl run. More than anything, Minnesota needs a few good draft classes to replenish an aging roster. Suppose they add an elite 29-year-old cornerback on a hefty contract and sacrifice most of their draft capital and money to do so. In that case, it goes against the competitive rebuild Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said he wanted to initiate.

Even if the Vikings weren’t in a competitive rebuild, it still wouldn’t be a smart idea to go all in on a few players because it usually doesn’t work. Los Angeles was the exception to the norm. Kwesi said it best: “You never want to go full Rams.”

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