One Year Later: Examining the Impact of the Jalen Ramsey Trade on the Jaguars So Far

John Shipley

One year ago today, the Jacksonville Jaguars made the biggest trade in the franchise history. 

Chances are the trading of All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams for a haul of draft picks will never be eclipsed, either. In many ways, the Ramsey trade was the most significant domino in the ending of an era for the Jaguars. 

Many remnants of the entertaining and brash 2017 Jaguars team that nearly made a Super Bowl appearance were already gone by the time Ramsey was traded, but no move signaled more of a shift in direction for the franchise than the Ramsey deal -- likely because no other player personified those Jaguars teams more than the Pro Bowl cornerback. 

On Oct. 15, 2019, the Jaguars put an end to the weeks-long saga with Ramsey by dealing him in what is still one of the biggest blockbusters in recent NFL memory. The compensation alone -- a 2020 first-round pick, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick -- is gaudy. But it also isn't often you see players of Ramsey's caliber be traded either. 

One year later, what can we say about the Ramsey trade and its impact on the Jaguars? We examine here. 

What led up to the trade

There are no mincing words when it comes to what Ramsey meant to the Jaguars up until the 2019 season. Considered one of the truly elite cornerbacks in the NFL, Ramsey was the most talented player on the team and the face of the franchise. 

In some ways, one could argue Ramsey is the biggest superstar the Jaguars have ever had when it comes to national popularity and perception. Jimmy Smith, Fred Taylor, Tony Boselli and others obviously ended up being more important to the franchise in the long run, but Ramsey was a looming figure.

The highest-drafted cornerback in Jaguars history after being selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Ramsey was instantly a star for the Jaguars. He was a Pro Bowl selection and a first-team All-Pro in 2017 as he helped lead the NFL's best pass defense. 

Ramsey was one of the primary reasons the Jaguars went 10-6, won the AFC South and came within a few minutes of beating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game in 2017. He was once again a Pro Bowl player in 2018, but his relationship with the Jaguars eroded at the same breakneck pace as the team's own deterioration on the field. 

Ramsey already had a rocky relationship with the Jaguars entering 2019, but things reached a boiling point in a Week 2 game against the Houston Texans. During a Texans possession in the first quarter, DeAndre Hopkins caught a third-down pass against Ramsey that looked close to an incompletion. Ramsey had a noticeable desire for head coach Doug Marrone to throw the challenge flag, but no red flag came from Marrone. 

Ramsey would then have a meltdown on the Jaguars' sideline, which led to Marrone stepping in. 

"No, you guys saw what happened. He [Jalen] felt that the ball was on the ground and wanted to throw the challenge flag. We have a process for what we do with the challenge flag and he was upset about it. That’s exactly what happened," Marrone said the next day. 

That same Monday, the news would break that Ramsey had requested a trade from the team. While most at the time presumed it was a direct result of his sideline blowup with Marrone, Ramsey would later brush off the incident during an appearance on the Uninterrupted ''17 Weeks'' podcast with Nate Burleson.

Instead, Ramsey said he requested the trade because of issues he had elsewhere in the organization. This came off of the heels of what he later described during an interview on ESPN as a post-game meeting with members of the front office, a meeting which didn't involve Marrone.

'Requesting the trade ... it's kind of been building over time,'' Ramsey said on the podcast, which was taped Monday. ''It has nothing to do with my teammates here. It has nothing to do with the city. ... But it's more so with the front office and the organization.'' 

''Some disrespectful things were said on their end that made me definitely walk out and call my agent as soon as I walked out,'' Ramsey said. ''I said, `It's time. My time is up here in Jacksonville.' I said I want to ask for a trade. I was truly at peace, like I wasn't in a mindset of making a decision while I was angry. I was completely calm. I still stand by that decision, asked for a trade.''

Ramsey played one more game for the Jaguars, but that would be it for his time in Jacksonville. The team and Ramsey still had a staredown for several weeks as the Jaguars waited on the right offer, with Ramsey missing multiple games with a suspect back injury. 

Finally on Oct. 19, a whole month after requesting a trade, Ramsey was sent to the Rams for the largest draft haul the Jaguars have ever received.

Impact thus far

It isn't fair to judge the result of the Ramsey trade as a whole to this point. We can still judge the process and decision, but not yet which team "won" the deal.

With that said, we can examine the impact the trade has had on the Jaguars one year later.

As a result of the Ramsey trade, the Jaguars clearly became a weaker defense. Trading Ramsey was never a football decision -- it was always clear that subtracting him from the roster would make the Jaguars a worse football team.

The Jaguars had no true replacement for Ramsey during the 2019 season, but they used their highest draft pick in April to replace him. They selected Florida cornerback CJ Henderson with the ninth overall pick, instantly slotting him in the No. 1 cornerback role Ramsey used to occupy. Had the Jaguars not traded Ramsey, it is hard to think they ever consider Henderson in 2020.

11 picks later, the Jaguars got to use the first of the three draft picks they obtained from the Rams. With the 20th overall pick, the Jaguars selected LSU defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson. Chaisson was selected to replace another disgruntled Jaguars defender in Yannick Ngakoue, but that is a different story for a different day.

With Henderson and Chaisson each linked to the Ramsey trade for different reasons, what kind of impact had the two had on the team so far?

Through five weeks, Henderson has started four games (sat out Week 5 due to shoulder injury) and recorded 15 tackle, four pass deflections and an interception. He was the deciding factor in the Jaguars' Week 1 upset of the Indianapolis Colts, intercepting Philip Rivers once and breaking up a pass on fourth down to end the game. 

But since his dominant NFL debut, Henderson has slowed down a bit. This is to be expected with a rookie cornerback, especially in a year such as 2020 where rookies have more challenges in front of them than ever.

Through five weeks, Pro Football Focus has Henderson ranked 44th out of 115 qualifying cornerbacks. Ramsey is ranked 15th, but it was never expected for Henderson to be better than Ramsey as a rookie. 

Henderson has shown plenty of talent, but he has still struggled in recent weeks. The struggles are expected but still serve as a reminder that Henderson is a young player who will go through ups and downs. Through five weeks, he has allowed 15 completions on 23 targets (65.2%) for 171 yards (7.4 yards per target) and two touchdowns. Quarterbacks currently have a 98.3 passer rating when targeting Henderson according to Pro Football Reference.

Henderson has flashed elite talent, but it is still too early in his career for one to make a proclamation on him one way or another. It is more of the same for Chaisson, though he hasn't had nearly the highs Henderson has had this year. 

So far Chaisson, the first of three players the Jaguars got in return for Ramsey, has played five games and recorded eight tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, two quarterback hits and one pass deflection, all while playing 53% of the team's defensive snaps. 

While Henderson has been inconsistent, Chaisson has more or less the same player all season. He had a great sack in Week 2 but he has otherwise struggled to generate pressure: according to Pro Football Focus, Chaisson is ranked 87th out of 114 edge defenders and has recorded just four pressures on 114 pass-rush snaps. This would equal to one pressure every 28.5 pass-rush snaps, though it averages out to fewer than one pressures per game so far. 

Just like with Henderson, it is too early to make any definitive statements on Chaisson. But so far it is at least clear that he is a bit of a developmental player, and trading him out for Ramsey is a proposition the Jaguars were always going to lose in the short term. 

While the long-term returns on the Ramsey trade are the most important, it is still worth pointing out how the Jaguars' defense has fallen in his absence. Once an elite unit, Jacksonville's defense has struggled mightily this year, in part to the Ramsey trade, in part due to the exodus of several other high-profile players and in part due to the overall youth of the defense. 

Jacksonville currently has the league's lowest-ranked defense in terms of DVOA per Football Outsiders. According to Pro Football Reference, the Jaguars have the least valuable defense in the league this season in terms of points added. The Jaguars' defense also leads the league in percentage of drives ending with a score with 56%. For context, no team in the 2010s finished a season allowing scores on more than 50% of drives.

The Ramsey trade was always going to make the Jaguars a weaker team in the short-term, of course. As discussed earlier, it wasn't a football move. It was a move that was necessitated by the public breakup between Ramsey and the Jaguars. 

All in all, the Jaguars got good value for Ramsey. Getting that haul of picks for a non-quarterback is essentially unheard of. While trading talented players is typically a bad practice, it is one that could eventually pay off for the Jaguars in this instance. 

But we won't fully know the ramifications of the Ramsey trade for several years. Not until at least Chaisson and the rest of the picks from the trade establish themselves in the NFL.

One year ago today, the Jaguars changed forever. They are continuing to change as a result of the blockbuster trade today, thus the impact of the deal will be examined for years to come. But for now, we can look back on the trade and remember it as the biggest in-season move the team has ever made. 

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