THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — He has a league-high 22 interceptions since he entered the NFL in 2015, but with a season opener against the Carolina Panthers around the corner, Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters does not have a long-term contract in hand.
“I’m just here to play football,” said Peters, who is entering the fifth and final season of his rookie deal. “The rest of that stuff will take care of [itself] when it’s time.”
A new deal does not necessarily appear imminent for the 26-year-old Peters, whom the Rams acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs for a fourth- and second-round pick after the 2017 season. A two-time Pro Bowl selection and All Pro, Peters is scheduled to earn $9 million this season.
“Right now, we’ve been so busy just kind of handling training camp, things like that,” Rams coach Sean McVay said, when asked earlier this week about the status of contract negotiations for Peters and quarterback Jared Goff — who is entering the fourth season of his five-year rookie contract. “Those are two very important players to us as we move forward this season. That’s kind of where we’re at right now with that.”
Before training camp, it seemed possible that Peters could hold out for a new deal. That’s what his close friend Marshawn Lynch did with the Seattle Seahawks in 2014, before he reported ahead of the season, without a new contract.
But that’s not the route Peters’ chose.
“I feel that you just keep coming and you do what you need to do and everything will get taken care of,” Peters said. “We’ve got bigger goals, really.”
The Rams are in pursuit of their third consecutive division title and a return trip to the Super Bowl. If Peters plays to his potential, he might not only help propel them to a deep playoff run, but help himself to a sizeable payday — be it with the Rams or elsewhere. The Rams could also place the franchise tag on him, which this season is worth $16 million for cornerbacks.
In May, the Miami Dolphins awarded cornerback Xavien Howard, a second-round pick in 2016, with a five-year, $76.5 million contract that includes $46 million guaranteed, to make him the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history. Howard has 11 interceptions in three seasons, including seven in 2018.
Last season, playing in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ scheme for the first time, Peters did not perform to standard until the second half of the schedule and into the playoffs.
He came to the Rams with 19 career interceptions and 55 pass deflections in three seasons. But in 2018 he finished with a career-low three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and eight pass deflections.
“I put him in situations I shouldn’t have,” Phillips said. “Now we got him playing with more help in some situations, so he can take more chances. He knows when to and when not to.”
Peters has not played in the preseason along with the rest of the Rams’ starters and key reserves.
“He’s been locked in,” McVay said about Peters. “He’s been engaged.”
Weddle, who signed a two-year deal in free agency, said he has long admired Peters’ play from afar, but has been even more impressed to see it up close — and to learn about Peters’ personality.
“Getting to know him on a personal level, and just his personality, he’s got a glow about himself that resonates with everybody,” Weddle said. “You want to be around him. He’s funny, he works extremely hard and he’s probably been one of the top performers in camp — of how consistent he’s been, his technique, how locked in he’s been.”
But, as Peters’ acknowledged, only time will tell if his on-field performance will translate to an extension.
“The way that he ended last year gives him a lot of positive momentum to build off of,” McVay said. “If he does, there’s going to be a lot of good things that happen for the Rams and Marcus Peters.”