The Ravens have reached an agreement on a contract extension with Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters, the team announced Saturday, rewarding a well-traveled but proven ballhawk who’s helped transform the team’s defense.
The extension is reportedly a three-year deal through 2022 worth $42 million, including $32 million guaranteed. The contract also will pay Peters $20.5 million next year, according to ESPN. Only five cornerbacks this year were under contract for more than $14 million annually, his extension’s yearly rate.
Peters, a two-time All-Pro pick who turns 27 next month and was set to hit free agency this offseason, has re-emerged as one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks following a midseason trade. He has returned three interceptions for touchdowns this season, two with the Ravens, and sealed a win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 14 with a last-minute deflection on fourth down.
As Peters has excelled, so, too, has the Ravens defense. When the Ravens acquired him from the Los Angeles Rams in mid-October for linebacker Kenny Young and a 2020 fifth-round pick, he was rated Pro Football Focus’ No. 15 cornerback; he’s now third overall. Since Peters’ debut in Week 7, the Ravens’ defensive efficiency has improved from No. 22 to No. 4, according to Football Outsiders. Heading into Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team is on a franchise-record 11-game winning streak and has already secured the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed.
Peters has five interceptions this season, three with the Ravens, and 14 passes defended. Since entering the NFL in 2015, he has an NFL-high 27 interceptions and seven defensive touchdowns. Peters’ six interceptions for touchdowns tie Pro Football Hall of Fame selection Lem Barney for the second most ever by a player in his first five seasons. Only Ken Houston (nine), another Hall of Fame member, had more.
“You really don’t know until a guy gets into your locker room and into the defensive meetings, how football smart they are,” defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said of Peters last month. “He is a savant when it comes to playing corner and routes and everything else.
“That’s been really refreshing, because as I’ve said many times, knowledge is power in this league. And you can see with his play that he has a lot of knowledge, and that’s what has jumped out the most to me.”
Peters’ unique talent and personality have been evident since he arrived in Baltimore. In his first Ravens game, a Week 7 win over the Seattle Seahawks for which he had only days to prepare, he picked off a second-quarter pass from Russell Wilson, the Pro Bowl quarterback’s first interception all season, and returned it 67 yards for a go-ahead score. He said after the game that he’d recognized the pass concept from a Rams game two weeks earlier and knew where Wilson might go with the ball.
Peters added another crucial pick-six two weeks later against the Cincinnati Bengals. Other than a poor first half in Week 13 against the San Francisco 49ers, he has paired with third-year star Marlon Humphrey, another Pro Bowl selection, to give the Ravens one of the NFL’s top cornerback duos. They’ve helped hold opposing offenses to 207 yards passing or fewer in seven straight games.
“It’s been really good," Humphrey said last month. "Before he came here, I heard a lot about him. I heard about the things he does on the field. So for him to be on my team has really been a help. I think he just said something earlier, [that] the game is a lot of mental. I’ve definitely seen that in his approach and the things he tells me and the things he communicates on the field.”
Peters is allowing a passer rating of 63.6 in coverage, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, and his weekly excellence has largely overshadowed some of his other on-field behavior.
Against the Houston Texans in Week 11, he had animated conversations with star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in between plays. After his game-clinching stop against the Bills, he celebrated by drinking a beer in the stands in the first row of seats at New Era Field. (The NFL later fined him over $14,000.) Against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday, coach John Harbaugh approached Peters on the sideline late in the game in an apparent attempt to calm him down.
But the former first-round pick has largely avoided the disciplinary problems that dotted his early career. After being dismissed from the University of Washington football team in 2014 after multiple arguments with assistant coaches, Peters earned Pro Bowl honors and was named a second-team and first-team All-Pro selection in his first two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.
In 2017, he was suspended for one game and fined $24,309 by the league for unsportsmanlike conduct after getting into a verbal altercation with an official and throwing a penalty flag into the stands during a game. Last season, after the Chiefs had traded Peters and a sixth-round pick to Los Angeles for a second- and fourth-round pick, Peters confronted a fan in the stands after being heckled during a Rams home game.
The Ravens had targeted Peters in the 2015 draft, and Harbaugh said upon trading for him in October that “every chance we’ve had to cross paths since [the predraft process], it’s been very positive. We always appreciate the way he plays.”
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Peters is the seventh player Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has signed to a contract extension since last offseason, along with Pro Bowl kicker Justin Tucker, Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, Pro Bowl fullback fullback-defensive tackle Patrick Ricard, cornerback Tavon Young, wide receiver Willie Snead IV and inside linebacker L.J. Fort.