Marcus Peters has a reputation across the NFL. He is the prototypical boom-or-bust cornerback. He will have five interceptions in a season while allowing five touchdowns. Peters is not a lockdown No.1 cornerback like his teammate Marlon Humphrey is. Peters, for better or worse, marches to the beat of his own drum. He is one of the league’s top trash talkers, and he breathes life into the Baltimore Ravens defense.
However, he is gone. On the same day that Baltimore lost running back Gus Edwards to an ACL injury, Peters joined Edwards on injured reserve. The Ravens were injured on back-to-back plays in one of their final practices before Week 1’s showdown with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Edwards is replaceable. Ty’Son Williams will likely do more than enough as Baltimore’s lead back. However, Peters is one of the most irreplaceable non-quarterbacks in the NFL. Even on a team with an All-Pro left tackle, Peters is the most irreplaceable Raven besides quarterback Lamar Jackson. As mentioned earlier, Peters brings swagger and electricity to the Baltimore defense. The unit as a whole feeds off Peters’ mentality. He takes risks and will be beaten from time to time, but few in the NFL can match Peters’ ball-hawking ability. Peters has 13 combined interceptions and forced fumbles in the last two seasons. Only Humphrey and interception artist J.C. Jackson have exceeded Peters’ 13.
How does Baltimore go about replacing Peters?
Humphrey is the No.1 corner. He can move to the slot when necessary, but his main role is as a boundary corner. When Humphrey is not in the slot, Tavon Young steps in as the slot. Young has only played 17 games in the last four seasons, so health is a major concern. When healthy, however, Young is a solid option.
Jimmy Smith will likely take much of Peters’ responsibility as the No.2 corner. He has 118 games of NFL experience under his belt. He has only forced 17 turnovers in 10 seasons, but he is a heady veteran option who knows Baltimore’s scheme inside and out. He is one of the most consistent corners in the league, but like Young, there are injury concerns. Smith has played 13 games in a season just twice (16 in both 2013 and 2015). Over the last five seasons, Smith has missed a total of 25 games, five games per season.
Anthony Averett is likely stepping into Smith’s vacated role as the No.2 (when Humphrey migrates to the slot) or usual No.3. His NFL career has been a mixed bag. Baltimore as an organization is high on him, but he has played just 30 of 48 available games. In those games, he has zero interceptions and 11 passes defended.
Beyond Averett, the Ravens have Chris Westry. Westry was a standout in camp and preseason football, but he only has two NFL games under his belt. He was an undrafted free agent who latched onto Dallas for a pair of games late in 2020. He played 28 total snaps, just nine on defense. Westry did enough to beat on Shaun Wade for the sixth corner spot, but with Peters out, Westry moves up the ladder.
The Elephant in the Room
Baltimore shipped Wade to the Patriots in exchange for two late-round picks in upcoming drafts. It seems natural to mark this down as an abject failure for Baltimore, but had Wade not been traded, he would have been cut. Wade would have landed on a different team’s 53-man roster regardless. With the trade, Baltimore acquired some assets. It is unfortunate, but the timing of the injury made it impossible for Baltimore to retain Wade. Had Peters been injured earlier in the offseason, Wade likely makes the team as the No.6 corner.
It is incredibly unlikely that Baltimore goes after one of these players, but for the sake of due diligence here are some available free agents.
Richard Sherman is the biggest fish available. However, he is 33 years old, and his best days were nearly a decade ago. He thrives in zone-heavy schemes, but Baltimore is man-heavy. Sherman is the best player available, but he is not a scheme fit.
Darqueze Dennard and Quinton Dunbar are younger, both 29 years old. Dennard has played 85 games across seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons. Dunbar has played 64 games across six seasons with Washington and the Seattle Seahawks. Both players were cut by new teams in the offseason. Dennard has been a league-average corner for much of his career. Dunbar had an exceptional 2019 season, but Washington dealt him to Seattle after legal issues surfaced. Dennard posted a 66.0 PFF grade in 2020, hauling in one interception. Dunbar is coming off of a rough 47.7 grade and one interception.
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