If you thought Pro Bowl Cornerback Marcus Peters was good in Kansas City, just wait until he debuts in Los Angeles.
The 25-year-old CB was unofficially traded on Friday morning from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Los Angeles Rams for a package of draft picks. The Rams continue to be more active in big-name player trades than most NFL teams, after acquiring former-Bills’ WR Sammy Watkins via trade this past season.
For the Chiefs, the justification behind this trade is puzzling. While it is true that Peters was suspended by the team for one game last season and ejected from another after throwing a penalty flag at a referee, Peters’ has not had any other trouble in his young career while being known as someone who may need some extra locker room guidance. After a tumultuous stint at the University of Washington with Head Coach Chris Petersen, it was clear that Peters would be a high-risk, high-reward type of prospect when he entered the NFL Draft in 2015. And thus far, he has delivered on the reward part for Kansas City, being named to the Pro Bowl twice in his three year career and snagging 19 interceptions in that time. According to Pro Football Focus, Peters is also among the best at keeping his side of the field locked down, giving up an average passer rating of 65.2, the best in the league compared to how many snaps he’s played.
It’s undeniable that Peters has had some issues but moving him after just three seasons, and only a few incidents this past season, figures to be a huge mistake for Kansas City. The Chiefs already had some major issues in the secondary, especially with finding a second corner to pair with Peters. Now they have no clear starters; Steven Nelson is the closest thing they have to a starter remaining on the roster for 2018. If the Chiefs wind up getting a first round pick from Los Angeles, albeit a later one, this trade won’t be a total loss. But if the deal is finalized on March 14 and Kansas City’s return are just mid or late round picks for one of the best young CBs in the game, then this trade was a complete whiff by Kansas City.
Without a doubt, unless the Rams gave up multiple first round picks, Los Angeles is the big winner in this trade. LA was dealing with turmoil of their own at the cornerback position, having franchised Trumaine Johnson the past two years. Johnson has proven to be a very good CB since his first franchise tag but not the same level of ball hawking-playmaker that Peters has proven himself to be. Peters is also three years younger than Johnson. The Rams will be able to move on from Johnson and get a better and cheaper alternative.
But most importantly, Peters has a real chance to be even better with the Rams than he was with the Chiefs. Defensively, Kansas City’s defense relied on a lot of off coverage and read and react tendencies to disrupt opponent’s passing games. And while Peters’ instincts are top-notch, and a big reason why he’s able to grab so many interceptions, he just isn’t an elite athlete, making him less than ideal to play in a primarily off coverage scheme. In off coverage, players who are smaller but quicker and faster succeed because they use their athleticism to close on the receiver and make plays. While Peters had enough athleticism to be great in this scheme, playing him in a system that allows for more press coverage technique will allow Peters to be counted among the best corners in the NFL.
His combination of size, athleticism, instincts and press-coverage technique will allow Peters to shut down receivers that line up on his side of the field. While this may ultimately mean a decrease in his interception numbers, it won’t be because Peters is failing in Los Angeles. He’ll just be locking down receivers so well that quarterbacks will be less likely to try and throw to his side.
In the aftermath of this deal, the Chiefs will figure to make themselves players in the free agent cornerback market now that they have moved on from Peters with no clear replacement. Fortunately for the Chiefs, the current crop of available CBs is strong this offseason. Players like Malcolm Butler, Aaron Colvin, Morris Claiborne, Bashaud Breeland and yes, Trumaine Johnson, will be available for the Chiefs to try and acquire to fill the void that the Peters’ trade has left them. They will also have to decide whether to retain two of their other primary CBs who will be free agents, Phillip Gaines and Terrance Mitchell.
If anyone can get the most out of Marcus Peters, it’s Rams’ Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips, who has proven time and again that he is capable of building ferocious defenses and maximizing the potential of the players around him. The future is bright for this secondary in Los Angeles while in Kansas City, with all the change they have undergone since an early playoff exit, there’s no guarantee what the Chiefs