Winners and Losers from Blockbuster NFL Trade: Marcus Peters to Rams
Well, that escalated quickly.
Less than a week after Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio brought up the possibility of the Kansas City Chiefs trading cornerback Marcus Peters, the organization agreed to a deal Friday to send the two-time Pro Bowler to the Los Angeles Rams, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The Washington Huskies product has flashes of brilliance and exceptional coverage skills offset by attitude concerns, which caused UW to dismiss him from its program his junior year following run-ins with the coaching staff.
"I spoke on his behalf multiple times. He just had issues articulating himself properly with coaches during disagreements," former Washington teammate Hau'oli Kikaha told Bleacher Report prior to the 2015 NFL draft.
Nothing has really changed.
After similar issues in Kansas City, the team traded him while he still held value. (The deal can become official when the new league year begins March 14.)
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid suspended Peters for Week 14's game against the Oakland Raiders last season, and the organization wasn't willing to discuss a long-term contract extension, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
The Rams are taking a chance—Peters may be a difference-maker during the 2018 campaign or flame out in his new situation—but it's worth it considering the franchise's trajectory.
Either way, the Chiefs and Rams made bold moves creating ripple effects that will be felt around the league.
Winner: Marcus Peters
There's no place like home. Marcus Peters is a California native. Granted, he's from Oakland, and he's going to Los Angeles. But a change of scenery—particularly to a preferred area—can be beneficial for anyone who experienced trouble at a previous stop(s).
The standout cornerback wore out his welcome in Kansas City.
According to NFL Network's Bucky Brooks, Peters needs a strong-willed coach. A veteran defensive backs coach told him, "It takes a wolf to coach a wolf."
Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is one of the best in the business and has dealt with multiple personalities throughout his 35 seasons as an NFL head coach, coordinator and assistant. He dealt with alpha dogs such as Aqib Talib, Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Chris Harris Jr. during his last stop with the Denver Broncos, and Peters shouldn't be a problem for the 70-year-old guru.
Furthermore, the 2015 first-round pick appears to have a future in Los Angeles. Kansas City's unwillingness to entertain long-term options became advantageous for the Rams, who can pick up the 25-year-old's fifth-year option for 2019 before negotiating a more lucrative contract next offseason or the year after.
At worst, the Rams hold Peters' rights for two years before he can test free agency. The franchise won't be eager to move on from the cornerback either, since general manager Les Snead is packaging multiple picks for his services, according to Rapoport.
Peters is at the right place at the right time with a young and burgeoning team ready to make some noise as one of the NFC's top squads.
Loser: Kansas City Chiefs Secondary
The Chiefs did everything in their power to soften the blow before deciding to move Peters.
Alex Smith's trade to the Washington Redskins hinged on the acquisition of cornerback Kendall Fuller in return. Less than three weeks later, the organization signed the recently released David Amerson to potentially fill a starting role. With Steven Nelson already on the roster and safety Eric Berry expected to return from a season-ending Achilles rupture, the Chiefs still feature a talented secondary.
However, they can't completely replace Peters' presence because he's a special performer.
According to NFL Research, he leads the NFL with 19 interceptions and 55 defended passes since coming into the league (h/t NFL Fantasy's Alex Gelhar). No defender has allowed a lower passer rating in coverage since 2015 either, according to Pro Football Focus.
The fourth-year defensive back's ball skills extend beyond the catch point, since Peters amassed 480 return yards and returned two interceptions for touchdowns in Kansas City.
Quarterbacks avoid cornerbacks who can capitalize on mistakes. The Chiefs no longer feature the same caliber of talent in their secondary. Peters and the coaches may not have gotten along, but his defensive talent is unquestionable.
The Chiefs will be worse off without him in the lineup.
Winner: Rams' Salary-Cap Flexibility
Snead is building a powerhouse program, but the long-term ramifications will be complicated.
In the short term, Peters' addition isn't just a talent upgrade; his current contract status will play a major factor in the front office's upcoming negotiations with other individuals.
Trumaine Johnson held a $16.74 million cap hit this past season after receiving a second straight franchise tag. Meanwhile, the fourth year on Peters' rookie deal is only worth $1.74 million in 2018.
The Rams have addressed cornerback without needing to worry about sinking money into a massive contract at the position for another year or two. Snead and Co. can work toward signing defensive tackle Aaron Donald (2019 unrestricted free agent), wide receiver Sammy Watkins and safety Lamarcus Joyner to long-term contracts with the remaining $43.86 million in projected salary-cap space, according to Spotrac.
This is important since the organization can front-load a couple of those deals to create more flexibility down the road since upcoming extensions are expected for Peters, Todd Gurley and, eventually, Jared Goff.
Snead can create even more salary-cap space if he trades or releases defensive end Robert Quinn and linebacker Mark Barron. Quinn was a part of the Peters negotiations at one point, per Rapoport. Both are potential salary-cap casualties since they combine for $22.40 million against the 2018 cap and aren't the best fits in Phillips' defense.
The Rams entered last season as the NFL's second youngest team. Adept drafting and roster manipulation placed L.A. in a great position to compete at a playoff level for an extended period. A window for Super Bowl contention is wide-open as long as Snead can hoard all of the team's talent by manipulating the salary cap in its favor.
Loser: Rest of the NFC West
After an 11-5 campaign and their first playoff appearance since 2004, the Rams are the team to beat in the NFC West, and they're going to be even better than last season.
The stink of coach Jeff Fisher's mediocrity has been expunged from the organization, and its aggressive nature is now a reflection of young head coach Sean McVay—the 2017 Coach of the Year—and a promising roster.
Peters' acquisition is a continuation of the franchise's current trend.
Last season, Snead understood his roster needed massive upgrades at key positions. In free agency, he lured left tackle Andrew Whitworth, outside linebacker Connor Barwin and wide receiver Robert Woods to Los Angeles. He traded for Sammy Watkins in August too.
Difference-makers are throughout the roster, with the team set at quarterback, running back, pass-rusher and cornerback.
The rest of the division doesn't look nearly as promising. The Seattle Seahawks have multiple injury and contract complications to address. The Arizona Cardinals are rebuilding after head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer's retirements. The San Francisco 49ers have a bright future, but they're about a year behind the Rams with their trajectory.
Los Angeles has playmakers everywhere you look in Goff, Gurley, Cooper Kupp, Donald, Joyner (assuming they re-sign or use the tag on him) and now Peters. The team has the ability to place the NFC West on lock for a significant period.
Winner: Trumaine Johnson
Trumaine Johnson must feel like Andy Dufresne after he escaped Shawshank. Johnson has been under lock and key the past two seasons, courtesy of the franchise tag. The 28-year-old cornerback is now a free man, and he'll make it rain in free agency.
He will test the open market for the first time in his career as the top available defensive back.
The Rams used the franchise tag twice before finding a younger and cheaper alternative. Technically, a third tag could be in play, but the possibility is fiscally irresponsible and unnecessary. Some can argue the organization compensated the 2012 third-round pick well. Players, though, tend to see franchise tags as jail sentences since their rights are controlled.
Johnson may be leaving a team on the upswing for whichever one becomes the highest bidder, but it's his choice and no one else's this time.
As the league's landscape continues to change, quality cornerbacks are more valuable than ever. Consecutive franchise tags already made Johnson the league's highest-paid defensive back, but his representation can push for the top contract in total value since he's about to enter a flush market.
The Rams need to prioritize others since six of their starters have expiring contracts. Given the cost, another franchise tag was never a good option.
The organization's decision worked out best for both since the team found a capable replacement, and Johnson can capitalize in free agency to eventually retire on some beach.