The Rams’ willingness to deal Peters, a gambler whose capacity for making big plays is surpassed only by his ability to surrender them, could be seen as a sign that the Ravens are taking a risk in adding him to their defense. After all, Peters is now set to play for the third team of his five-year career, after having been traded by the Kansas City Chiefs after three seasons with the team, and he was kicked off his college team at Washington.
But that interpretation doesn’t adequately account for Baltimore’s present circumstances. Peters fits squarely into the Ravens’ general team-building outlook and arrives at a time when they are well-positioned to make a run. They play in a vulnerable division and seem to see an opening to distance themselves from the flawed AFC North pack. Peters has his drawbacks, but he’s talented enough to help.
The Rams received linebacker Kenny Young, who barely contributed in Baltimore, and a late-round draft pick, believed to be in the fifth round. Given Young’s small role and a potential comp pick headed their way, the Ravens could essentially be acquiring Peters — a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 all-pro — for almost nothing.
Objectively, Peters should boost a Ravens defense lacking in playmakers at all three levels. Baltimore’s pass rush, in the wake of losing Za’Darius Smith to the Green Bay Packers in free agency, has been its biggest weakness. The Ravens may be banking on Peters’s coverage giving rushers extra time to reach the quarterback. Or maybe they simply believe a talent infusion could solidify their place in a conference lacking a dominant contender behind the New England Patriots.
Peters will go from a coordinator (Wade Phillips) who brings frequent blitzes and relies on his cornerbacks to a coordinator (Wink Martindale) who brings frequent blitzes and relies on his corners. So it’s not like the Ravens see a skill in Peters that’s waiting to be unlocked. But wanting him simply for what he is makes sense. Pro Football Focus rates Peters as the 16th-best cornerback in the NFL this season, ahead of every Ravens corner.
Peters’s propensity to ballhawk, sometimes apart from his team’s scheme, creates game-swinging plays for both teams. In Week 4, he nearly led a comeback when he returned a Jameis Winston interception for a touchdown. But barely a Sunday passes without a highlight including Peters chasing a celebrating wide receiver into the end zone. His brashness — which surfaced more in college and Kansas City than it did with the Rams — can both create an edge for a defense and throw a team’s chemistry off-kilter.
The Ravens may believe the presence of safety Earl Thomas can erase some of Peters’s on-field missteps, and that in Baltimore he can return to being one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. The cost of finding out will be minimal. It is a risk for the Ravens, but a very small one worth taking.