This is not me reporting any insider information, just using conventional wisdom. But the Falcons are probably thinking hard about giving cornerback Brent Grimes an extension, just only waiting for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement to be agreed upon so that they can properly navigate future financial waters properly.
Grimes’ contract is up, but because he only has three accrued seasons of experience, he’d be a restricted free agent under the old rules of free agency. My expectation is that when a new CBA is struck, it will reinstitute those old rules as nothing the union or owners have said in the two years since we’ve known this battle was coming has indicated they were unhappy with that aspect governing when a player becomes a free agent.
So that would mean that at the end of the 2011 season, Grimes would be an unrestricted free agent. Cornerbacks are one of the premium positions that most teams put a lot of stock into being strong at, along with quarterback, left tackle, and pass rusher. That means if Grimes makes it to the open market, he could be really hard to keep because of an offer someone else makes.
Grimes has collected 11 interceptions in the past two years. That total is only exceeded by Asante Samuel’s 16 in that span, and matches that of Ed Reed, Aqib Talib, and Charles Woodson. And Grimes’ 36 passes defended in that span is only exceeded by a handful of players: Brandon Carr and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (both with 42), Darrelle Revis (40), and Brandon Flowers (37).
And Grimes is the anti-DeAngelo Hall, who was up for a contract extension prior to the 2007, the final year of his deal. But his brash behavior on and off the field meant that he wasn’t the most sound investment going forward. Grimes is cool, tough, and the epitome of the blue collar workman-like attitude that this football team and organization now covets. And it doesn’t hurt that the dude has ridiculous hops.
Under normal circumstances of the NFL off-season, I’d imagine the Falcons would have tendered Grimes with a high restricted tender to prevent other teams from sniffing around him, and then try to work out an extension at some point during the summer before the regular season started. The current labor crisis has that normal timeline thrown out of whack. And if a new deal is struck, we don’t know when, and whether that will leave the normal amount of time before the season for a new deal to get done. Although the Falcons could try and work out a deal during the season like they did with Jonathan Babineaux and Michael Jenkins in 2008, but it’s harder to get done.
The last thing the Falcons want is that a year from now, Grimes is still unsigned. The franchise tag for a cornerback this year is around $14 million, a significant increase from the $9.6 million it was a year ago. Who knows what it could be a year from now. And that’s money that the Falcons would prefer to defer, especially in an off-season where potentially John Abraham, Tony Gonzalez, Curtis Lofton, Kroy Biermann, Thomas DeCoud, and Todd McClure are all free agents. As far as Grimes goes, getting his deal done sooner is better.
So what kind of money could Grimes be getting? We had two guys sign big deals in the past week in Champ Bailey (Denver) and Stanford Routt (Oakland). Respectively, Bailey got a deal that averaged $10.75 million a year with $15 million guaranteed. While Routt got $20 million paid to him in the first two years of a three-year deal that averaged $10.5 million over its course. Last September, both Charles Woodson and Darrelle Revis signed deals that averaged more than $11 million per year and got $21 million and $32.5 million guaranteed, respectively. Last March, the Falcons paid Dunta Robinson a deal that averaged $9.5 million per year, and was reportedly worth $25.5 milion guaranteed (although based off the numbers I’ve seen, it’s closer to $20.5 million if you don’t count all the option bonuses).
So that probably means that Grimes is in the market for around $10 million a year with over $20 million. Certainly expensive, but Grimes is worth it. And if he happens to put together a strong 2011 campaign in the meantime before a deal gets done, then he will have only proven that he is even more deserving of high praise.