LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Rams acquired a loud, dynamic, shutdown cornerback — and less than two weeks later, they acquired another one.
Their frenetic offseason took a turn toward downright bedlam late Thursday afternoon, when the Rams agreed to send a 2018 fifth-round pick to the Denver Broncos in exchange for five-time Pro Bowler Aqib Talib. Thirteen days earlier, the Rams sent a 2018 fourth-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for two-time Pro Bowler Marcus Peters.
The Rams had a barren secondary when the offseason began, but now heralded defensive guru Wade Phillips will get to utilize arguably the game’s best cornerback duo along with the NFL’s premier pass-rusher in Aaron Donald and an elite safety in Lamarcus Joyner.
The Rams, who led the NFL in scoring last season, have the makings of a great team, and they’ll definitely be fun to watch.
When the new league year begins on Wednesday, they will have four trades to process. They acquired Talib and Peters, while also shipping away edge-rusher Robert Quinn and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree. They signed Sam Shields, a Pro Bowl cornerback who spent most of the past two years away from football because of concussions, mere hours before word leaked that they were trading for Talib.
Shields gives the Rams depth, along with Kayvon Webster, who is recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered in December. The Rams still want to re-sign Nickell Robey-Coleman, whom they deem valuable in the slot. But they definitely won’t be bringing back Trumaine Johnson, who spent the past two years playing under the franchise tag and will now be presented with a robust market as an unrestricted free agent.
Talib (costing $11 million against the Rams’ salary cap in 2018) and Peters ($1.74 million) are each signed through 2019 and will combine to make about $30 million over the next two seasons.
Over the past two seasons, Johnson alone raked in $30.69 million.
Talib and Peters have been invited to a combined seven Pro Bowls and were on the same All-Pro team in 2016. Peters, 25, led the NFL with 19 interceptions from 2015 to 2017. Talib, 32, ranked second with 34 interceptions from 2008 to 2017. Some of his best years came on Phillips’ top-ranked Broncos defenses from 2015 to 2016, when Talib intercepted six passes, scored three touchdowns and won a Super Bowl.
Last year, Pro Football Focus had Talib tied for 15th among 121 corners who played enough snaps to qualify, just one spot ahead of Peters.
Peters and Talib also bring fiery and occasionally combative personalities to a Rams locker room that no longer has the steady leadership of Ogletree and Quinn. Peters was thrown off his collegiate team at Washington for an altercation with an assistant coach, then was suspended by the Chiefs this past December for tossing an official’s penalty flag into the stands. Talib was suspended twice while with the Broncos, first for poking Dwayne Allen in the eye in 2015 and then for fighting with Michael Crabtree in 2017.
The Rams are clearly willing to take personality risks because of how it can help them maximize the contention window they have suddenly thrust themselves into.
With Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp — and potentially Sammy Watkins, who is set for free agency — they boast a young, promising offense overseen by one of the game’s brightest offensive minds in coach Sean McVay. With Donald, Peters, Talib and Joyner, they now have four elite playmakers for Phillips, with still more than $30 million in salary-cap space to fill things out around them.
The Rams shocked the world with an 11-5 season in 2017, but they won’t be surprising anybody anymore.