Jalen Ramsey didn’t make any grand statements wrapped around Super Bowl guarantees or even that the cornerback combination of he and Xavien Howard are the best in the NFL, but his introductory press conference in Miami on Thursday still put his brash confidence on display.
The six-time Pro Bowl, three-time All-Pro cornerback, outfitted in Gucci from head to toe, embraced championship aspirations in his new home with the Dolphins. He mentioned hopes of securing first-ballot Hall of Fame status over the second half of his career. And for those that think he’s past his prime at 28, he had some pointed words.
“Alright,” he replied simply to a question about criticism for his 2022 season with the Los Angeles Rams. “Did you see me play last year? Cut on the film. You got to really watch it. You don’t become this successful without actually doing good things on the field and having the respect of your peers, media. … We gon’ see.”
And when you combine the desire to prove doubters wrong in a new situation, return to a Super Bowl after already winning one and form a potentially elite secondary, one can see why Ramsey tweeted Sunday, moments after news broke the Dolphins acquired him in a trade, that he prayed for this exact scenario to develop.
“I didn’t necessarily think like, ‘Oh, I’ll be traded,’ but once it kind of started to be reality, me and my team we sat down and we kind of wrote pros and cons of different situations going on,” Ramsey explained. “Which teams may be in need of a corner, which teams may be interested, which teams do I like, as well, which teams will I fit whatever they got going on.
“And I remember writing down Miami, and Miami stayed at the top of my list from the jump. So yeah, then I just started praying about it and it all started to visualize for me, so I’m ready. I hope it’s everything that I dreamed up and prayed about, and I’m sure it is, so I’m excited.”
And all it took in the trade for Miami, aside from the additional $25 million in guarantees to his contract in a restructured deal, was tight end Hunter Long and a third-round pick.
Ramsey thought back to how he and Howard were the two first-team All-Pro cornerbacks in the league in 2020. Now, the two veterans can team up to lock up opposing pass games in an AFC where it will be needed with quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen in the conference and Allen now soon to be joined by Aaron Rodgers in the Dolphins’ division of the AFC East with the New York Jets.
Ramsey has been a core piece of stout cornerback units and defenses with both the Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars, but he puts this group on top.
“On paper, this is the best group that I’ve been a part of, and I feel like I’ve been a part of some good groups in Jacksonville and also in L.A.,” he said. “But it’s not just about us. It’s a whole defense and a whole team. I think we can do something special if we put that work in and be as one.”
Aside from Ramsey and Howard with Jevon Holland at safety, the Dolphins defense, now under the direction of new coordinator Vic Fangio, has standout edge rushers in Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb. The front line is spearheaded by Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler. David Long could be a welcome addition to the linebacker corps if he stays healthy.
In Fangio’s system, Ramsey can feel right at home. Fangio was the architect of the same scheme the Rams have been running in recent years, with current Chargers head coach Brandon Staley as defensive coordinator in 2020. Staley was under Fangio with the Bears and Broncos seasons prior.
Ramsey’s versatility can shine, as his skill set is not just restricted to playing cornerback on the outside. He was flexible playing the “star” position in Los Angeles.
“I’m very familiar with the scheme,” he said. “Love the scheme. It’s different ways to play it, and that just depends on the flow of our team and exactly what [Fangio] wants me to do because I have that versatility. I can do whatever he asks of me.”
Ramsey alluded to how he can lock up opposite boundaries with Howard. Or slide into the nickel. Or blitz in a dime package. Or cover tight ends.
With all that he can bring on the field, the veteran experience — and Super Bowl experience — grants him comfort in taking on a greater leadership role than he’s previously manifested.
“When I was going to L.A., I was kind of a younger guy when I first got traded,” Ramsey said of the 2019 move. “Now, I’m one of the older ones in the room and on the team. It’s a little bit of a difference, but I know what I can bring personally as a player and as a DB on the field. I know what I bring into the locker room — just my energy, my swag, my passion, my love.
“There’s some championship qualities that I know I can bring as well, just from being on a winning team basically every year I was in L.A. besides this past one. And, you know, getting to the Super Bowl, winning the Super Bowl, having success individually, having team success, being around Hall of Fame players — Von Miller, Cooper Kupp, Matthew Stafford.”
Ramsey wasn’t sure how Miami sports fans would feel about him after the way he dominated the Hurricanes while in college at Florida State. He wondered, “I don’t know how they’re going to feel about me right now. I used to tear them up.”
But he loved the embrace from being in South Florida his first few days, including attending the Miami Heat game against the Memphis Grizzlies courtside with Howard on Wednesday night.
Ramsey has also had his first interactions with his new coach Mike McDaniel. The cornerback said McDaniel offered a playful nudge at Rams coach Sean McVay, whom McDaniel has worked with, saying he wants to be the best head coach he’s ever had.
If Ramsey can provide a piece that helps bring the Dolphins their first Super Bowl in 50 years, it would go a long way in him solidifying his Hall of Fame aspirations.
“I want to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” he proclaimed Thursday, saying he wants to put himself in the category of great cornerbacks like Darrelle Revis, Charles Woodson and Deion Sanders.