With the NFL trade deadline looming in a couple weeks, the Ravens decided to get in on the action early and made a fairly big splash this afternoon. In a trade that took many by surprise, GM Eric DeCosta agreed to trade LB Kenny Young and a 202o fifth-round draft pick to the Rams in exchange for CB Marcus Peters.
In the wake of the Ravens acquiring Peters, here are the answers to five burning questions.
1) How much does this help the defense right away?
Marcus Peters’ insertion into the lineup will likely pay dividends immediately - not just because he’s a talented player, but because the Ravens have been ravaged by injuries in the secondary. Not having Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young out there has forced players like Maurice Canady and Anthony Averett into larger roles, the latter of which has been recently been a healthy scratch after struggling mightily to begin the season.
Canady showed out against the Browns and Steelers but struggled in last week’s matchup against Bengals’ WR Auden Tate. His overall performance has been admirable considering the low expectations, but he’s not exactly a player you want playing a large share of snaps at corner. Veteran Brandon Carr is still capable of high-level, steady play but appears to have lost a step this season and is more prone to getting beat than the past two seasons.
Is Peters a complete player? Certainly not, but the Ravens don’t need him to be. Peters is a strong in press-man coverage and has demonstrated a knack for forcing turnovers, which is a much-needed skill set opposite Marlon Humphrey - who is responsible for nearly all of the team’s forced turnovers this year.
2) How does Peters fit on the team’s roster?
As mentioned in the last paragraph, Peters shines in man coverage where he can use his physicality and athleticism to his advantage. In zone coverage, however, Peters has some clear limitations and struggles. When the Ravens have played zone coverage this season, they’ve largely been gashed by opposing offenses. This unit was always designed to have the cornerbacks handling 1-on-1 assignments, which allows “Wink” Martindale to utilize extra blitzers, with Earl Thomas III roaming behind them. However, with the talent deprivation at cornerback this season, this strategy hasn’t exactly gone to plan.
With Peters in the fold, though, it should be more feasible. Because Peters can handle his matchups better than Carr or Canady, Martindale will not have to worry about dropping Thomas down towards the box as much. So, in addition to taking pressure off Baltimore’s secondary corners, the presence of Peters will also allow Thomas to play his more natural role and give Martindale more flexibility and creativity.
3) What does this mean for other corners on the roster?
Humphrey’s role as the No. 1 cornerback on the team remains unchanged, as he’ll still match up against the opposing team’s best receiver. However, there figures to be some shuffling amongst the other corners on the roster. Brandon Carr figures to move into the slot to make room for Peters on the outside. While not his natural role, Carr has experience playing the nickel corner spot and should be plenty capable of holding his own.
Canady will likely see his recently-increasing snaps decline a decent amount now, but he’s better-suited as a No. 4 cornerback than a starter. Given his strong play of late, he’ll likely continue to see some run in a complementary role, as well as on special teams. It’s unlikely that Anthony Averett, whose been inactive for the past two games, suddenly sees snaps. Justin Bethel will continue to act primarily as a special teams contributor.
4) What does this say about Jimmy Smith?
Since suffering an MCL sprain in Week 1, CB Jimmy Smith has yet to return to the practice field. HC John Harbaugh originally said that his injury would keep him out “multiple weeks” but wasn’t season-ending, although we’ve learned of no specific updates regarding his status since then. Harbaugh proclaimed that he was “hopeful” Smith would return soon while addressing the media the other day.
Trading for Peters may be a sign that the Ravens know something about Smith’s health that we don’t and if that’s the case, it’s probably not a good sign. However, while it could mean Smith will be out for awhile, the two may also not be related. Only time will tell.
5) Is Peters a one-year rental or potential long-term fixture?
Peters, 26, is in the final year of his rookie contract, meaning he’s set to hit unrestricted free agency following this season. Exactly what kind of market he demands is dependent on how he performs over the next 8-10 games, but it’s not unreasonable to think he could wind up remaining in Baltimore on a new contract.
Considering the age and contract of Brandon Carr, as well as the contract and injury history of Jimmy Smith, both player’s futures in Baltimore beyond this year is murky. If one of them, or both, end up playing for a different team next season, re-signing Peters to a new contract means cornerback is one less position the Ravens have to worry about finding a starting-caliber player at in the draft or free agency. If Peters performs at a high-level for the remainder of this season, it’s hard to imagine the Ravens letting him walk in free agency. Unless, of course, he demands some sort of outrageous deal.
There’s also the possibility that Peters does in-fact end up being a one-year rental and signs with a different team next year. If so, the Ravens didn’t give up too much capital to acquire him in the first place (Kenny Young, 2020 fifth-round pick), so it’s not the end of the world.