JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jalen Ramsey crouched in the back of an armored truck, peered through a small window and waited for his introduction.
The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback then flung open both doors, revealing dozens of phony money bags and a huge smile.
Ramsey put on quite a show as the Jacksonville Jaguars reported for training camp Wednesday. The performance likely will serve as the start of a yearlong push for a new contract.
“It’s time to get this money, money,” the driver said into a megaphone as Ramsey exited the vehicle.
Ramsey is entering the final year of his $23.3 million rookie contract. The Jaguars exercised the fifth-year option in the deal, meaning he’s tied to the club for $13.7 million in 2020.
Ramsey is one of the top cornerbacks, if not the best, in the league. He has nine interceptions and 44 pass breakups in three seasons while typically shadowing each opponent’s No. 1 receiver.
The Jaguars want the former Florida State star to be a long-term piece of their defense. But they’re unwilling to give him an extension with two years remaining and already told him so.
Still, Ramsey made it clear with his grand entrance that he expects to get paid handsomely — sooner rather than later.
The driver dressed in all black and sporting an armored vest pulled up near the front gate and delivered a loud and glowing intro for teammates, fans and media.
“Y’all know what time it is?” the driver said. “This man’s coverage is so good he’s fixing to have his own cellphone service. The man’s so good they’re fixing to give him his own jail — called Jalen Towers — because these receivers are on 24-hour lockdown. If you check his pocket, he’s got eight Master locks in his pocket. They’re on lockdown all season. The man, the myth, Jalen Ramsey.”
Jacksonville has a little more than $9 million in cap space available, but should be in better financial shape next year after getting rid of about $24 million in dead money already paid to quarterback Blake Bortles, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, safety Tashaun Gipson, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and others.
The team also has a more pressing need — signing standout defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
Ngakoue was a no-show for the start of camp amid contract negotiations and was placed on the reserve/did not report list. The team also placed absent linebacker Telvin Smith, who said in May he’s taking the season off to “get my world in order,” on the reserve/retired list.
Jacksonville will gain another $9.75 million in salary cap space if Smith stays away all year.
Even without that extra cash, the Jags have enough space to get a deal done with Ngakoue. A Pro Bowl selection in 2017, Ngakoue has 29½ sacks and 10 forced fumbles in three seasons. It’s unclear, though, how a holdout will affect negotiations.
Ngakoue showed up for the start of voluntary organized team activities in May and vowed to attend the remaining dozen practices. He emphatically stated he planned to play this season even if he didn’t get a long-term contract. He bailed three days later and was fined nearly $90,000 for skipping a mandatory minicamp in June.
A third-round draft pick from Maryland in 2016, Ngakoue is entering the fourth and final year of a $3.84 million rookie deal. He’s due to make $2.025 million this fall — far less than other top playmakers at his position.
The Jaguars have said they want to re-sign the 24-year-old Ngakoue, but there’s no guarantee it will happen.
Although Ngakoue has clearly outperformed his current deal, he’s also an undersized defensive end who could be stouter against the run. Plus, the Jaguars landed his potential replacement in April when they selected Kentucky standout Josh Allen with the seventh overall pick in the draft.
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