Shocking trade from Chiefs to Rams a wakeup call for Marcus Peters

By Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 23, 2018 at 9:59 PM
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Controversy ramped up rapidly Friday when a pending deal was revealed that will trade Pro-Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Los Angeles Rams.

Such transactions cannot be officially consummated until March 14, the official beginning of the 2018 NFL league year.

Peters is arguably one of the top three cornerbacks in the NFL and still on a rookie contract that for the Chiefs would have counted only $3 million against the cap, including a guaranteed base salary of $1.74 million. That is an outright steal in today's NFL and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is being ridiculed for making such a shocking move.

Not here. In an era where the NFL pretends to care about the conduct of players, Reid should be congratulated. We will get into the on-field ramifications later. First, let's take a serious look at what is really happening.

Reid is giving Peters a much-needed wakeup call. How Peters' career plays out in Los Angeles will be totally up to him. And he need only look at the lives and careers of two other NFL veterans to understand his choices for a future in the NFL and in life.

Peters' history aligns closely with two other NFL defensive backs -- Tyrann Mathieu of the Arizona Cardinals and Adam Jones of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Mathieu and Peters were both kicked out of college -- Mathieu from LSU for failing too many drug tests (marijuana); and Peters from Washington for consistently defying team rules.

Jones wasn't kicked out of college, but he was suspended from the NFL for an entire season for repeatedly violating the league's conduct policy. That was in 2007.

Numerous arrests later, Jones is still trouble looking for someplace to happen. My lasting memory of Jones is from September of 2015 at the Oakland Coliseum when he straddled Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper on the ground after a play. Jones took Cooper's helmet and bashed it against the wide receiver's head. Amazingly, Jones wasn't ejected for an act that was worthy of an arrest and jail time.

And then there is Mathieu, whose talents as LSU's Honey Badger were so remarkable that the safety was a Heisman Trophy finalist as a true sophomore in 2011. But in 2012, LSU head coach Les Miles announced that Mathieu was dismissed from the team after failing too many drug tests. In October, Mathieu was arrested and began to realize he needed to change.

He threw away his cell phone -- the umbilical cord that constantly tied him to bad influences -- and hid out in Florida to get his body and mind in shape for football and life in general.

By February of 2013 a clean, sober, in-shape Mathieu took part in the NFL Scouting Combine. In March, he looked even better at LSU's Pro Day. Although his issues in college erased his name on many NFL draft boards, the Cardinals took a chance and stole him in the third round, No. 69 overall.

Unfortunately, the combination of Mathieu's size -- only 5-foot-9, 186 pounds -- and aggressive play has resulted in numerous injuries. But when he is healthy, Mathieu shows remarkable abilities, especially when it comes to causing turnovers.

On the field, Peters is a bigger version of Mathieu in terms of sensational ball skills. In three seasons, he has 19 interceptions in 45 games plus two in four playoff games. But his attitude and actions were obviously not acceptable to Reid, whose offseason moves are a neon sign that he is rebuilding the Chiefs.

And, regardless of Peters' ability as a player, Reid does not want the wrong type of influence in his young locker room.

It definitely will be a young locker room seeking leadership and an identity. Alex Smith was traded so second year quarterback Patrick Mahomes can take over. The Chiefs have also moved on from 13-year inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, and he will test free agency.

So there were plenty of signs that Reid was going to deal Peters without even considering last season's three unsportsmanlike fouls, two for unnecessary roughness, and the idiotic idea to throw an officials' flag into the stands. Reid suspended Peters one game for that, which is probably when the die was cast.

In the pending trade that will send Smith to Philadelphia, it was not coincidence that the Chiefs named cornerback Kendall Fuller as part of the compensation. And the Chiefs signed cornerback David Amerson, previously with Washington and Oakland.

Neither of them has the ability of Peters, but that obviously was not the primary consideration.

We don't yet know what the Rams gave up for Peters, but there is no denying they are getting one of the best shut-down corners in the NFL, and everything that comes with him. The Chiefs were faced with deciding whether to exercise their fifth-year option by May on Peters, who was a first-round pick in 2015. Now, the Rams will have the ability to do that; otherwise he will become an unrestricted free agent in March, 2019.

In 2018, the Rams are on the hook for his guaranteed salary, while the Chiefs will absorb as dead money the remaining prorated $1.3 million of his signing bonus.

If Peters wants to maximize this chance, he needs to heed the trade for what it is -- a wakeup call. Maybe he can call Mathieu, who learned his lesson and once again carries a cell phone. Mathieu can tell Peters that it is worth the struggle to straighten up and warn him that the opportunity to backslide will always be there.

A year ago, while recovering from knee surgery, Mathieu was asked if all his injuries or setbacks could make him depressed enough to fall off the wagon and revert to his old ways.

"No, no, no," he said. "Once you go through something like that and you experience the worst of it, you know you don't want to go down that dark road ever again."

Peters has All-Pro and even Hall of Fame ability. Whether he lives up to that potential is up to him.

--Frank Cooney is founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange, has covered football for six decades and is a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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