The Ravens traded for Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters on Tuesday, betting that the two-time All-Pro selection can shore up a disappointing and injury-ravaged secondary.
In exchange, the Ravens sent second-year inside linebacker Kenny Young and a reported fifth-round draft pick in 2020 to Los Angeles, the team announced. Coach John Harbaugh is scheduled to meet with reporters Wednesday.
Peters, 26, has 24 career interceptions over four-plus seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles, more than any other NFL player in that span. This season, he has graded out as the league’s No. 15 overall cornerback, according to Pro Football Focus, ahead of even top Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey. The 6-foot Peters had two interceptions and four pass defenses in six games this fall for the Rams.
His addition should bolster a secondary that entered the season as the team’s deepest unit but has struggled through the first third of the schedule. Even after a solid defensive performance in a win Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens pass defense is No. 25 overall in yards per game (269.5), a dramatic fall for last season’s fifth-ranked unit (210 per game).
Injuries have hit hard. The Ravens lost slot cornerback Tavon Young in training camp to a season-ending neck injury. Cornerback Jimmy Smith hasn’t played since suffering a knee sprain in Week 1, though he could return to practice in the coming weeks. Safety Tony Jefferson suffered a season-ending knee injury in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago, and backup DeShon Elliott is also likely out for the season with a knee injury suffered Sunday.
When Smith returns to the lineup, the Ravens defense will have four starting-caliber cornerbacks in Smith, Peters, Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr. Like Smith, Peters is in the final year of his contract. Carr has a team option for 2020, meaning the Ravens could also decide to part ways after this season.
The Ravens’ road game Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks will be a homecoming of sorts for Peters, whose history of disciplinary issues started in college. He was dismissed from the University of Washington football team in 2014 after multiple arguments with assistant coaches but was still drafted in the first round, No. 18 overall, by the Chiefs in 2015.
In his first and second season with Kansas City, Peters earned Pro Bowl honors and was named a second-team and first-team All-Pro selection, respectively. 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 a referee and throwing a penalty flag into the stands during a game against the New York Jets.
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 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Rams coach Sean McVay said in December that he spoke with Peters about the confrontation and that Peters understands he’s “got to be better in those situations.” Three months later, McVay said the team “absolutely” wanted to sign Peters, the entering the fifth year of his rookie deal, to a long-term extension. The Rams rank fifth in pass defense this season, and McVay last month praised Peters and fellow starting cornerback Aqib Talib for the “nice job” they’d done in communication and limiting big plays.
The Rams quickly found Peters’ replacement. Hours after the trade with the Ravens, the Rams reportedly acquired All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey from the Jacksonville Jaguars for two first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 and a fourth-round pick in 2021.
In Baltimore, Peters will pair with Humphrey at corner to give the Ravens one of the NFL’s top playmaking duos. Peters has returned four interceptions and one fumble for touchdowns in his career, including one pick-six this season. His 24 career interceptions are more than Carr, Humphrey, Jefferson, Elliott Patrick Onwuasor, Anthony Levine Sr., Maurice Canady, Chuck Clark, Anthony Averett and DeShon Elliott have combined for since 2015.
While the Ravens still lack a true slot cornerback, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale will have the flexibility to place multiple corners across the field in different positions. Humphrey has fared well against the Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Bengals’ Tyler Boyd, two shifty receivers, the past two weeks.
Last season, the Ravens rotated their cornerbacks in to keep them fresh, especially with Smith and Carr over 30 years old. But Humphrey (96.1% of all defensive snaps) and the 33-year-old Carr (91.7%) have rarely left the field this season. Peters’ presence, along with the expected return of the 31-year-old Smith, should allow the defense to once again have that luxury.
Young, a 2018 fourth-round pick, showed promise as a rookie but played just six snaps in the Ravens’ win Sunday, none of them on defense. Onwuasor, Josh Bynes, L.J. Fort and Chris Board are now ahead of him on the depth chart at inside linebacker.
Tuesday’s trade sends him back to Los Angeles, where he starred for UCLA.
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Baltimore Sun reporter Daniel Oyefusi contributed to this article.