On July 16, the deadline for teams to sign their franchise players to long-term deals comes and goes. Which means that a week remains for the Falcons to lock up Brent Grimes to a long-term deal. If not, then Grimes will play out his one-year franchise tender in the hopes that a long-term deal will come after the 2012 season. A week ago, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports indicated the odds that Grimes receives a long-term deal from the Falcons as “fair.” La Canfora indicated that due to the money already invested in fellow corners Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel, the Falcons may opt to take a wait and see approach to see how the 2012 season plays out between the three before handing out big dollars to Grimes.
Grimes already signed his tender in April, so there won’t be the threat of any holdout if the July 16 deadline comes and passes without a new deal. But the price tag for the Falcons will likely only increase if a deal isn’t struck sooner rather than later. Grimes will then become a free agent following the 2012 season and if the Falcons choose to tag him again, his tender will increase by 20% from the current $10.262 million to around $12.3 million in 2013. Next year, the Falcons most prominent free agents include Tony Gonzalez, William Moore, Vince Manuwai, and Todd McClure, thus making Grimes again the likeliest candidate for a tag.
Little word has been publicly noted about what type of deal Grimes is looking for. It’s likely a deal that approaches or exceeds $50 million in total value. Already this off-season, three free agents have received deals that exceeded that mark: Lardarius Webb (six years, $52.7 million), Cortland Finnegan (five years, $50 million), and Brandon Carr (five years, $50.1 million). It’s likely that Finnegan’s and Carr’s deals will be used to scaffold any potential deal for Grimes since they include the most guaranteed money ($24 and $25.5 million, respectively) and payouts over the first three years (both receive $33 million).
The Falcons gave out $22.5 million in guaranteed money to Robinson back in 2010 as part of a six-year, $57 million deal. They restructured his deal this past off-season, which makes his entire 2012 base salary of $5 million guaranteed, and $3 million of his $8 million base salary next year guaranteed if he’s on the roster on the fifth day of the league year starting in early March. Essentially it puts the Falcons in a position where they could part ways with Robinson or Grimes after this season depending on who proves to be the more valuable commodity in 2012. Robinson is a year older, but also serves the more valuable role as slot corner. For Samuel, his new three-year, $18.5 million deal only includes about $4.375 million in guaranteed money, but he has escalators in the deal tied to performance. Samuel and Grimes have similar games, both being undersized but highly instinctual ball-hawks. So if the Falcons opt to let Grimes play out his one-year deal and walk next year, they have a replacement already in Samuel. If they opt to part ways with Robinson, then it would require the team to get a new slot corner (although Dominique Franks is a possibility). But either way, the odds don’t appear to be greatly favoring the long-term viability of the triple threat of Grimes, Robinson, and Samuel at cornerback here in Atlanta.
Next year, the competition for new contracts for corners could heat up. Along with Grimes, potentially Tracy Porter (Broncos), Aqib Talib (Buccaneers), Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer (Chargers), Mike Jenkins (Cowboys), Sean Smith (Dolphins), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Eagles), Chris Houston (Lions), Jabari Greer (Saints), and Jason McCourty (Titans) will hit the open market. Jets corner Darrelle Revis is also looking for a new deal that doesn’t seem likely to come before the 2012 season starts, but could be done afterwards which could raise the price tag of Grimes.
For now, with what is estimated to be under $3 million in 2012 cap space, the Falcons don’t need to get Grimes signed to a long-term deal and lower his 2012 cap hit. But it certainly would help and allow the team to carry over whatever savings they reap this year into next year’s salary cap. So it would certainly benefit to create as much salary cap space as possible this year to benefit them next year.