For a little over three weeks, the Chiefs have declined to talk about Marcus Peters directly.
When it became known the Chiefs had agreed to trade the star 25-year-old cornerback to the Los Angeles Rams, general manager Brett Veach and coach Andy Reid preferred to speak vaguely, citing the fact the trade had not been completed yet, per NFL rules.
But Wednesday marked the start of the new league year, and thus, with many fans wondering why the Chiefs —
who are clearly undergoing a youth movement — decided to trade one of the best, youngest players at a critical position in the NFL, Veach was finally free to address the situation directly .... at least as much as he was going to without getting into specific details.
Veach started by reiterating what he said at the NFL Combine — that neither he nor Reid were operating under a mandate from ownership to trade Peters, who drew attention with his pregame protests from September through October.
Instead, Veach stated directly that he and Reid simply believed that trading the sometimes-combustible Peters was in the best interests of the team.
"Certainly there was never a mandate given to Coach and I, and certainly the anthem was never brought up in those discussions," said Veach, who said the Chiefs would have still made the trade had Peters not protested during the anthem. "I think at the end of the year what we do is Coach and I get together and we talk about our roster, players on our roster and whether it was Alex (Smith) or Derrick (Johnson) or Marcus, we just trust our vision, and there are tough decisions to be made."
It was also telling, perhaps, that Veach felt compelled to add that when it came to trading Peters — who they packaged with a sixth-round pick this year for a fourth this year and a second next year — the Chiefs looked at his "full body of work," both on and off the field, when considering the move.
On the field, there's not much to complain about. Peters remains one of the league's best corners, a ballhawk who regularly created turnovers and still has his best football in front of him.
"Excellent player," Veach conceded.
However, Peters is also coming off a tumultuous season that included a one-game suspension for his behavior during and after a loss to the Jets, and various other incidents in which his sometimes-explosive temper drew more attention than his play on the field.
"In this job, it’s not just the gamedays on Sundays," Veach said.
That said, Veach also said the team was very conscious of the salary cap when making the move to trade Peters, who was likely set to ask for a contract extension worth $18 million a season and would likely have held out for an extended period to get it.
"The moves we've made over the last year shows we're very cap-conscious and we know what we want to do over the next two or three years," Veach said. "Everything we do isn't just for one year."
That said, it's clear the Chiefs had no desire to make Peters the game's highest-paid corner, especially given how big money only emboldens players to do as they please since the cap ramifications of releasing them early in the deals essentially marry them to the team for a few years.
Beyond all that, however, Veach had no desire to elaborate further on why Peters was traded, preferring to stand on the statements attributed to both he and Reid when the team announced the trade Wednesday, with both men essentially stating their belief this was the right move for both sides at the right time.
"At the end of the day," Veach said, "everyone is where he needs to be."
From there, Veach — who took over for fired general manager John Dorsey last July — preferred to talk about his vision for the team, and the steps the Chiefs have taken to improve this offseason. He's particularly happy with the moves to trade for Washington cornerback Kendall Fuller, who he got in return for Smith, and the signing of free-agent receiver Sammy Watkins and free-agent inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens.
In Fuller, the Chiefs are getting a competitive, athletic corner who graded out as the best slot corner in football last season, according to Pro Football Focus. The Chiefs are betting he'll be just as good, or even better, in a full-time role.
"He’s an ascending player with a tremendous amount of potential," Veach said. "I mean this kid’s got versatility, instincts, ball skills and again we’re really excited to add Kendall to our roster."
The Chiefs, in fact, loved both of their free-agent acquisitions so much they tried to deal for both of them last offseason, Veach added.
"Watkins was the No. 1 player on our free-agent board," Veach said. "And Hitchens, when you find and identify a young guy that can play all three downs, you need to be able to commit to him and his skill set."
The Chiefs are paying both men a lot of money. Watkins received a three-year deal worth $48 million, while Hitchens received a five-year deal worth $45 million.
Veach, however, sees both as full-time impact players, and the youth of each man was appealing, too. At 24 (Watkins) and 25 (Hitchens), both players have not hit their physical primes yet and should still be playing their best football when young quarterback Patrick Mahomes has enough starts under his belt to potentially lead the Chiefs to a Super Bowl.
"Certainly you have your core philosophies and principles in the free-agency period," Veach said. "One of those is the guys that are young, the guys that can grow and develop with your culture and with your vision for this team. This is a tough, violent league and the more wear and tear you have the harder it is to produce and play. The younger you are, the more juice you have.
"Those guys, like you said, would the level of interest have been the same if they were 30 years old? No, for sure.”
Thing is, Veach isn't done yet. The Chiefs' roster, with the release of Tamba Hali and Johnson and the trade of Smith, went from fairly old to very young. That's by design. The plan is to build a team that can grow with Mahomes in hopes of winning a Super Bowl within the next three seasons, when Mahomes is still on his cheap rookie deal and the Chiefs can add superior talent around him.
"We have a lot of talent here," Veach said. "It’s a lot of young talent, which is exciting for the fans, but we realize there may be some growing pains, but we have guys that can straight up play football and they’re exciting. I think our fans are going to love the product we produce.”