LOS ANGELES -- Marcus Peters is only 25, set to make less than $2 million and has far more interceptions than anybody else over the past three seasons -- and yet, according to the Kansas City Star, only the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers were legitimately interested in trading for him.
It says a lot, about the reputation Peters has built and the hesitancy it has caused.
In agreeing to acquire Peters from the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday -- for a package of draft picks that has yet to be revealed, in a trade that won't become official until the start of the new league year on March 14 -- the Rams inherited some risk. They got a shutdown cornerback at minimal cost, adding an elite playmaker at their greatest position of need for only $1.74 million. But they also added a mercurial player with a history of quarreling with coaches and losing his composure, which prompts some important questions.
Is Peters a bad guy, or could the Chiefs simply not reach him?
Is his ability worth the trouble?
Is the Rams locker room and culture strong enough to sustain it?
The Rams' hope is that a change of scenery will do wonders for Peters. And if any scene will do it, it's theirs. The Rams are only a drive away from Peters' hometown of Oakland, which is said to be important to him. They have a 32-year-old head coach in Sean McVay who is as good as any at connecting with this generation's players. Their defensive coordinator, the 70-year-old Wade Phillips, is as revered as they come. And the leadership within their locker room is sound, with the likes of Aaron Donald and Alec Ogletree setting the tone on defense.
"We have a good foundation in place," McVay said from the 101 Awards in Kansas City on Saturday, where he was presented with the organization's NFC Coach of the Year Award.
"The leadership, I think, that we have in our locker room is able to bring guys in and welcome them and make them feel a part of it. You'll hear us talk about 'we not me,' being a part of something bigger than yourself. That's what we've got in our locker room, and that's why you feel good about being able to bring people in and let them know that we're going to welcome them; we're going to put our arm around them."
Peters was dismissed from Washington before the completion of his junior season after multiple arguments with assistant coaches. His coach with the Chiefs, Andy Reid, has a strong reputation for getting along with players. But even Reid felt the need to suspend Peters after a bizarre sequence against the New York Jets this past December, when he threw an official's flag into the stands, left the field without being ejected and later returned without socks. Peters also argued with Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton on the sideline a handful of times, among other transgressions.
Phillips has dealt with numerous dynamic personalities in his 40-plus years in the NFL, most recently the likes of Pacman Jones and Aqib Talib. But Phillips has never been considered a disciplinarian. Players love playing for him at least partly because he trusts them, because he lets them be, because he doesn't necessarily reprimand. If that is ever necessary with Peters, it would probably fall on McVay.
His leadership and coaching acumen could be tested like never before, but it should be worth it.
Peters is that good.
He has generated 30 turnovers since being drafted 18th overall three years ago, including 19 interceptions, six forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. His 49.0 disrupted dropbacks -- a measure that combines interceptions, sacks, batted passes and passes defended -- are tied for third from 2015 to 2017. And since the 1970 merger, only three players -- Richard Sherman, Ed Reed and Everson Walls -- had more interceptions in their first three seasons.
Asked about Peters in Kansas City, McVay declined comment because the trade has not been processed.
"But in a quick nugget," McVay said, "he's a great player."
Quarterbacks have continually shied away from Peters, his targets going from 137 in 2015 to 87 in 2016 to 72 in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus. But he's still the first player since Reed from 2000 to 2004 with at least five interceptions in each of his first three seasons. He missed only two tackles last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and forced a career-high four fumbles. From 2015 to 2017, his opponents' passer rating when targeted has been 67.7, 66.0 and 66.0, respectively. All fell within the NFL's top 11.
In Peters, the Rams gain a former All-Pro who's better than Trumaine Johnson and costs one-tenth of the price. There's still no word on what they gave up, but some reporters have speculated that a first-round pick probably wasn't involved. If that's the case, then this is the type of trade you make every time -- when you're that kind of team, have that kind of need and feel that kind of confident about your environment.
"When you look at the way that we want to operate philosophically," McVay said, speaking in generalities, "you can never have enough guys that can cover, be able to play some of the man principles that Coach Wade loves to implement."
Peters comes at a critical juncture in his rookie contract. The Rams will have until May 3 to pick up his fifth-year option for 2019, which basically means they have a year to figure out whether to pay him in line with the game's best cornerbacks. Given that, and the circumstances that will surround him, perhaps Peters will remain composed in 2018.
The Rams, coming off an 11-5 season that led to a division title, just acquired a potential Hall of Fame cornerback in the thick of his prime. They will happily deal with any of the red flags that come with it.
"Everything starts with relationships, and I wouldn't say you're looking for any sort of balance of personalities [in the locker room]," McVay said from Kansas City. "You want the right types of guys, and we look for good guys who are good football guys and that love the game."
ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher contributed to this report.