LOS ANGELES -- The Rams swung a major trade on Friday afternoon, acquiring All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters from the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for a package of draft picks that has yet to be revealed.
The deal, which will not be processed until the start of the new league year on March 14, gives the Rams eight first-round picks from 2013 to 2016 on their roster, including Tavon Austin, Aaron Donald, Dominique Easley, Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Alec Ogletree and Sammy Watkins. It means a whole lot more than that moving forward, most notably that they added a young, affordable impact player at their greatest position of need.
Below, we sort out the ripple effects.
Goodbye, Trumaine Johnson: The Rams won't rule anything out, but it seems pretty obvious that the Peters acquisition signals the end of Johnson's tenure. The Rams never seemed very interested in signing Johnson to a long-term contract in line with the game's highest-paid cornerbacks, evidenced by their use of the franchise tag in back-to-back years. Many expected Johnson to be the most coveted corner in free agency, which means he would command something in the neighborhood of $13 million a year. At the very least, the Rams are no longer in a situation where they have to pay him that.
Flexibility with the salary cap: Peters will count $1.74 million toward the salary cap in 2018, which is about 10 percent of what Johnson cost toward the cap in 2017. The Rams can also pick up Peters' fifth-year option for 2019, which they will presumably exercise before the May 3 deadline. They began the offseason with about $40 million in cap space, and they addressed one of their biggest needs at minimal cost. That's more flexibility to lock up two key pending free agents in Watkins and safety Lamarcus Joyner, one of whom will probably receive the franchise tag. It also means more down-the-road savings to eventually make Donald the game's highest-paid defensive player.
Flexibility with the draft and free agency: This doesn't completely solve cornerback for the Rams. Their No. 2 corner, Kayvon Webster, ruptured his Achilles tendon in December, an injury that typically comes with a recovery period of six to nine months. Their slot corner, Nickell Robey-Coleman, will join Johnson as an unrestricted free agent. Behind them, there isn't a whole lot of depth. But the Rams have a good chance of landing a top-flight corner with the No. 23 pick in this year's draft. There will also be several affordable depth options in free agency. The best part: They don't have to explore any of those avenues in search for an immediate impact player, which is always dicey.
Peters under Wade Phillips: Peters is an elite playmaker, with 19 interceptions from 2015 to 2017. He made the Pro Bowl in 2015 and 2016 and was first-team All-Pro in the latter season. Last year, Pro Football Focus graded Peters 17th among 121 cornerbacks (Johnson, by the way, was ranked 68th). And now he will play under Phillips, one of the game's most celebrated defensive coordinators. In their first year under Phillips, the Rams generated 10 more turnovers, from 18 in 2016 to 28 in 2017. Their interceptions jumped from 10 to 18. Phillips does a masterful job of generating pressure and freeing his secondary to make plays on the ball. The question is whether Peters will travel with the opposing team's best receiver. He mainly stuck to one side of the field with the Chiefs, but Johnson traveled for the Rams.
Peters in the locker room: A guy like Peters -- young, skilled, inexpensive -- usually only becomes available if there are character concerns. And that appears to be the case with Peters, as ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher outlined. Peters was thrown off his collegiate team at Washington for an altercation with an assistant coach, then was suspended by the Chiefs this past December for tossing an official's flag into the crowd. He was seen shouting at defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and, at least at one point, directing expletives at a group of fans behind the Chiefs' bench. The Rams are aware of all the red flags and have done some digging around. They're confident that the culture in their locker room is strong enough, and they're hopeful that a change of scenery will do Peters some good.
This trade seems similar to the one the Rams made with the Bills for Watkins late last summer. It's similar because a team like the Rams, which is suddenly in a contending window, needs to pull off trades like these -- giving up draft picks for young, talented, affordable players -- in order to plug holes and remain on top. It's also similar because Watkins came in with his own character concerns and developed into a supportive, unselfish teammate, even though he was hardly the focal point of their offense.
The Rams are hoping for a similar development with Peters.