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Jesse Pantuosco

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Peace Out, Peters

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Let’s get one thing straight—Mike Florio nailed it.

 

Last week the head honcho at ProFootballTalk suggested Marcus Peters could be on the move, a theory that was widely dismissed by football Twitter. One of the more outspoken dissenters was Matt Conner from Arrowhead Addict, who promised “Marcus Peters is never going anywhere. Ever.” Florio’s premonition came true Friday when the Chiefs shipped Peters to the Rams in exchange for a 2018 fourth-round pick and a second-round selection in 2019. The Chiefs are also sending the Rams a sixth-rounder in 2018. KC was reportedly eyeing pass-rusher Robert Quinn, perhaps as a replacement for Derrick Johnson, but ultimately settled for draft compensation.

 

While many assumed Peters was untouchable, his exodus was fairly easy to foreshadow. Now that we know the Chiefs’ end game, it’s clear their offseason maneuvers, even the Alex Smith trade, were all building toward Peters’ eventual departure. Kendall Fuller, owner of PFF’s No. 6 corner grade in 2017, arrived in the return package for Smith and the Chiefs poached David Amerson shortly after he was released by Oakland.

 

Those acquisitions laid the groundwork for Friday’s blockbuster but the truth is, Peters’ fate was likely sealed all the way back in Week 13. That’s when he lost his cool against the Jets, melting down by throwing a flag into the crowd and inexplicably leaving the field, only to return minutes later without socks. Peters drew a one-game suspension for his stunt and remained in Andy Reid’s doghouse for the remainder of his tenure in KC. With Peters nearing the end of his rookie contract and Kansas City hurting for cap space, the Chiefs decided it was time to pull the plug.

 

Peters was one of the league’s premier corners throughout his three-year stay in Kansas City, winning Rookie of the Year in 2015 before earning first-team All-Pro honors the following season. Even in a down year, he still received PFF’s No. 15 cover grade among cornerbacks in 2017. Any way you slice it, Peters is one of the toughest matchups in football and should be an immediate difference-maker in the Rams’ secondary. With Peters in tow, the Rams are now certain to move on from Trumaine Johnson, who had been franchise-tagged the past two seasons.

 

Coming off their first winning season in over a decade, the Rams are loaded on both sides of the ball and should be competitive again in 2018. But they’ll have to pay the piper at some point. The clock is running out on Todd Gurley’s rookie deal and he’ll surely be angling for an extension in the near future. Peters is in the same boat while Sammy Watkins, who led the team with eight touchdown receptions in 2017, could be a candidate for the franchise tag. L.A.’s biggest financial commitment is still Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who could be in line for a Von Miller-esque mega-deal this offseason. Even with the annual salary cap continuing to rise, it’s going to be difficult for the Rams to maintain all their young talent. Sacrifices will have to be made, but luckily Los Angeles should be able to keep its core intact for another few years. That’s bad news for the rest of the league.

 

Landry Leaving?

 

Usually teams wait until close to the deadline to apply the franchise tag after failing to make progress in contract negotiations. That wasn’t the case for the Dolphins, who wasted no time in assigning the tag to Jarvis Landry. The LSU alum would have drawn widespread interest in a thin receiver market and the Dolphins weren’t going to risk losing him for nothing. Multiple sources have confirmed Miami’s desire to trade Landry, including Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, who said it would be a “stunner” if the 25-year-old isn’t dealt in the coming weeks.

 

The Dolphins are open for business, but what will the market be for Landry now that he’s playing under the $16.2 million franchise tag? It’s a risky ploy by the Dolphins, who run the risk of A) being low-balled now that they’ve shown their cards or worse B) having to keep a player they never wanted in the first place. It’s possible to rescind the franchise tag—the Panthers undid Josh Norman’s tag in 2016—but surely that would be a last resort. If Miami can’t strike a deal in the next few weeks, the Dolphins will have little money to spend on free agents. At present, the Fins are one of only two teams over the salary cap.

 

If teams weren’t interested in trading for Landry last summer when he was making only $900,000, why would they be more inclined this time around? Throwing $16.2 million at a slot receiver on a one-year deal seems reckless, but clearly the Dolphins are anticipating a receiver-needy team being desperate enough to pull the trigger. The Ravens, who checked in on Landry last summer, could be in the mix. Mike Wallace is a free agent, Jeremy Maclin is coming off his worst year and may be a cap casualty while former first-round pick Breshad Perriman has bust written all over him. The rebuilding Browns have the cap space to take on Landry’s salary as do the 49ers, who could be looking for a receiver to pair with newly-installed franchise QB Jimmy Garoppolo.

 

Landry has been productive since arriving as a second-round pick in 2014. No receiver in NFL history has caught more passes in their first four seasons than Landry, who led the league with 112 catches in 2017. He also tied for the league’s fourth-highest touchdown total, an impressive accomplishment considering Jay Cutler’s lackluster play at quarterback.

 

Those are all pluses, but does Landry really belong in the upper echelon of NFL receivers? He ranked 108th in yards per catch last season (8.8) and hasn’t topped 100 yards in a game since Week 14 of 2016. And despite his touchdown bonanza this past season, Landry has rarely shown a nose for the end zone. His nine touchdowns in 2017 were more than he scored in his previous two years combined.

 

Whoever takes the plunge on Landry—the Dolphins are meeting with his agent at the Combine later this week—will be getting a flawed but effective possession receiver at a higher annual salary than DeAndre Hopkins. Since Landry’s availability is essentially the league’s worst kept secret, Miami won’t have much leverage in trade talks. It only takes one team to strike a deal and the Dolphins’ decision to tag him this early would suggest they have something up their sleeve, but it looks like Miami may have overplayed its hand with Landry.

 

Moving Martavis

 

Landry isn’t the only receiver drawing trade buzz. Martavis Bryant may also be headed elsewhere. While Pittsburgh isn’t actively shopping Bryant, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport did confirm the Steelers are entertaining offers for the talented 26-year-old. Bryant returned to the gridiron last season following a year-long suspension for repeated violations of the league’s substance abuse policy but didn’t have the year he was hoping for. The Clemson alum was nowhere to be found early on, topping 50 yards receiving in just one of his first 12 games with two touchdowns during that span. He took on a more prominent role after Antonio Brown went down with a torn calf in Week 15 but was otherwise a non-factor.

 

Bryant quickly fell behind impressive rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster and was none too thrilled about it. Martavis spouted off on social media and was inactive for Week 8. Bryant took the benching in stride but has been on shaky ground ever since. With one year left on his rookie deal, it makes sense for the Steelers to move Bryant before he inevitably leaves in free agency, though his value certainly took a hit after underachieving in 2017. Bryant is due just $705,000 next season, so he wouldn’t be a strain on the team’s salary cap. That would give the Steelers incentive to keep him, though Bryant’s criminally-low salary is also what makes him an appealing trade target.

 

It might be too early to truly gauge his market, though we do know the Bills targeted Bryant at the trade deadline before later pivoting to Kelvin Benjamin. Though nothing materialized at the deadline, the Bills have every reason to re-enter the Bryant sweepstakes. Bryant didn’t put up huge counting stats last season but some of that can be attributed to rust following a year-long absence. Volume, or lack thereof, was also to blame for Bryant’s tepid receiving totals in 2017. With Ben Roethlisberger funneling targets to Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Smith-Schuster, there was never much chance for Bryant to carve a big role in the Steelers’ passing game. Don’t forget, Bryant was a receiver on the rise before off-field struggles derailed his career in 2016. He visited the end zone 14 times in 21 games over his first two seasons (that total stretches to 16 in 24 games if you include the postseason) while routinely making absurd plays like this.

 

Bryant fared reasonably well down the stretch (262 yards and two touchdowns over his final four games) and still boasts a tantalizing combination of size and speed. It would be interesting to see what Bryant could accomplish as a lead receiver and he may be afforded that opportunity in Buffalo. At worst, he’d be 1B to Benjamin’s 1A. With Zay Jones coming off a trying rookie year and injury-prone Jordan Matthews headed for free agency, the Bills need all the pass-catching help they can get. Bryant could certainly benefit from a change of scenery, but if the Steelers choose to bring him back as insurance for Brown and JuJu, that wouldn’t be a bad idea either. And if the Steelers aren’t blown away by the offers they receive, they can always try again at the trade deadline. As they say, deadlines spur action.



Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco



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