Atlanta Falcons: Why Letting Long-Time CB Brent Grimes Walk Is the Right Move

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Atlanta Falcons: Why Letting Long-Time CB Brent Grimes Walk Is the Right Move
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Atlanta Falcons free agent cornerback Brent Grimes should be allowed to walk away from the team. He is not worth the money he wants, has a terrible Achilles injury to recover from and is easily replaceable through this year's draft.

In all honesty, Grimes just isn't going to be the player that he was before. So why should the Falcons pay him like a top-tier corner that he isn't going to be anymore? Why should they waste the money on someone who won't be worth it?

That's the problem that Grimes is also likely finding on the market. No one wants to give a guy that is recovering from an Achilles injury a long-term deal. No one wants to make this guy their franchise player at cornerback anymore. It's not exactly the best situation to get into.

Now, I'm not going to be all negative about Grimes. In 2010 and 2011, he was easily one of the top five corners in the entire NFL. Pro Football Focus metrics over those years support the assertion that he was a top five corner (subscription required).

My personal favorite metrics are coverage snaps per target, coverage snaps per reception, yards per coverage snap and passer rating allowed. The first three give an idea of how good a corner is during plays where the ball isn't thrown his way while passer rating allowed shows how good he is when it is thrown his way.

His breakdowns in these stats, including where he ranked within the NFL (in parentheses), are as follows:

Year Cover Snaps
Per Target
Coverage Snaps
Per Reception
Yards Per
Coverage Snap
Passer Rating
Allowed
Interceptions
2010 5.1 (62nd) 10.1 (35th)  1.11 (25th) 61.3 (5th) 5
2011 7.9 (6th) 17.8 (4th) 0.58 (1st) 62.9 (15th) 1

As you can see, he really improved his off-the-ball coverage in 2011, even from an already good 2010 season. The slight increase in passer rating he maintained isn't even an issue with how good of a corner he already was.

But will he ever be the same guy he was in 2011 despite the injury, or was he simply a one-year wonder?

My money would be on the latter.

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
If you were Arthur Blank, what would you offer Brent Grimes?

 

Brent Grimes simply wants too much money for his age and his talent-level.

Last season, Cortland Finnegan made $10 million a year in the first year of a  a five-year deal, and Grimes would likely want something similar to this.

At 30 years old, though, is the player worth the contract? If you get the Grimes of 2011 for all five years, then yes, he would be. 

Based on this situation, what kind of contract would you offer Brent Grimes?

Submit Vote vote to see results

You likely won't get that, though. Cornerbacks regress quickly once they hit the 31 and 32 years of age. There are always exceptions like Charles Woodson, Rod Woodson and even Deion Sanders, but for the most part, most older corners aren't worth the contracts that they receive.

If Grimes does come back to the Falcons, it will have to be for a deal that is worthy of what his projected talent will be. Free agent deals aren't about what a player has done for the team. Instead, they are about what the player will do for the team in the future.

The deal that he would have to take would either be one year for about 3 million, or even a deal similar to what Terrell Thomas got with the Giants, when he signed a one-year contract with the team in February worth a maximum of $1.2 million (h/t New Jersey.com). Thomas' contract is essentially a one-year, guaranteed prove-it deal that can trigger into a multi-year, market value deal for a top corner.

If it were up to me, Grimes would receive a similar "take it or leave it" offer. He must prove that he is worth the money, or he can go. It's unlikely that he would accept that kind of deal, though, so the team should let him walk due to the money he is commanding not being worth the talent he possess at this point in time.

 

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

What are the true risks behind his Achilles injury? Are they worth it?

For this, I asked Bleacher Report Injuries Featured Columnist Dave Siebert a couple of questions. He's receiving his M.D. in June from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, so if anyone knows about injuries, it's him. I asked him the following questions in relation to Brent Grimes' injury:

Grimes was slated with a "torn" Achilles, according to ESPN. What exactly is the difference between a torn Achilles, ruptured Achilles, and sprained/strained Achilles?

The Achilles tendon attaches the calf muscles to the back of the heel. Flexing the calf muscles pulls up on the Achilles tendon, and therefore the back of the heel, resulting in pointing of the toes. In other words, when a player jumps, he is using his calves to help push off from the ground.

Achilles injuries occur when an outside force suddenly lengthens the tendon while it is pulling on the heel—a tackle bending pointed toes backward, for example. When that occurs, the tight, contracting tendon is forcefully over-stretched or torn. Such an injury is known as a strain.

The words "strain," "tear" and "rupture" all represent different ways to describe similar injuries. Grade-one tendon strains are tendon over-stretches without any tear, while grade-two and grade-three strains imply partial and complete tendon tears, respectively. A grade-three strain is also sometimes called a rupture.

Grimes doing Rehab on 3/26

So it's safe to say that Grimes had at least a stage-two Achilles injury. These aren't exactly easy to recover from, nor are they fun to watch a player incur. If Grimes can fully recover from what was either a full tear ("rupture") or a partial tear, he could be worth bringing back. 

He would have to prove that he is completely, 100 percent recovered, though. The expected recovery time would have him ready for the start of the season, but it is questionable to believe that he can have the same type of impact that he did in 2011.

Because his game relies on his speed and jumping ability, Grimes could really be hurting in 2013, unless he has a proper recovery. Even then, who knows what the full effect of the injury would be?

 

With a player who relies almost entirely on his jumping ability and speed, how do you feel the Achilles will be affecting his game?

Achilles tendons—like ligaments and cartilage—have relatively poor blood flow, limiting their self-healing ability. To make matters worse, the most frequent location of Achilles tears also happens to be the part of the tendon with the least blood flow. That is likely why Grimes required surgical repair of the injury—his tendon needed assistance in order to heal properly. It is actually possible that his tendon would have never healed without intervention.
Unfortunately, tendons are never quite the same after strains, and Grimes will also be at higher risk of re-injury from this point forward. That said, the Achilles is the strongest tendon in the human body. What's more, a player's jumping ability is determined by the muscle bulk within the quads and calves, not the tendons themselves. The tendon only needs to be able to match the pull placed on it by the muscle.

This is quite interesting. According to Siebert, Grimes should still be able to jump and run and have the same kind of speed, as long as he can strengthen his Achilles back to where it was previously. It shouldn't be hard for someone who works as hard as he does to get to that same level.

However, the re-injury risk is too great to give him a high-value contract. As seen with Shawne Merriman in Buffalo, if the player doesn't ever fully heal, he will never be the same kind of player that he was previously. Merriman was forced to retire at the ripe age of 28, and Grimes is actually a full two years older.

That risk will be one that could be worth taking if he takes the right kind of deal, though. But why give Grimes special treatment and a deal that could bust the salary cap situation when the Falcons could just use a draft pick on another cornerback this year, especially since Grimes is already losing some athleticism?


 Do you see this as a detrimental injury for Grimes—who at 30 years old when the season starts is already starting to lose some athleticism? Could this essentially end his career as a potential starter?

How long the 30 year-old Grimes was going to remain a starting-caliber player prior to the injury is another story, but the injury itself should only have minimal downstream effects on his career. Assuming no complications such as nerve injury arose during or after surgery, proper treatment, rest and physical therapy should get him back into football shape without much difficulty.

More Grimes rehab from 3/26

So as it sits, it looks like Grimes will not be getting completely hurt by this injury from a physical standpoint. However, he does need to make sure he rehabs it correctly. If he doesn't, then the re-injury risk gets that much worse. Is this really something as a GM that Thomas Dimitroff should be forced to worry about?

I don't think so. He should be worried about putting together the best talent for the money that he has available. He should be worried about getting together the best group of guys on and off the field. If injuries are a worry with the player and his contract demands don't agree with the injury, he should walk. 

In Grimes' case, that's what should take place. His demands and injury questions don't agree with his actual value on the field. The Falcons would be wise to let him leave the team and then select his replacement in the draft.


Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Could Desmond Trufant be the Falcons new starting corner?

This year's draft has amazing depth at corner.

Unlike last year's draft, this year has a ton of great athletes at cornerback. While last year's draft saw just five cornerbacks taken in the first two rounds, this year could easily have eight or nine taken in the first two rounds. This would include a few of my personal favorites in David Amerson, Desmond Trufant and Darius Slay.

Who would you draft to be Brent Grimes replacement?

Submit Vote vote to see results

It all just depends on the kind of corner that Atlanta would want. If they want someone who can be the exact clone of Brent Grimes, they could easily find him. They could also find someone who is closer to being the lock-down corner that Darrelle Revis is. It's just what they want.

But with at least a dozen corners with high grades in the top two rounds, the Falcons could get someone who is able to start immediately within the first three rounds. Why bring back Grimes for over $5 million per season on a four-year deal when they could have someone on the roster for less than $3 million per season for that same period of time?

Why bring back Grimes when the talent in the draft is comparable to what you would expect him to be after his injury? Just let him walk and take the players who are equal to him now but still have the ability to improve in the future.

 

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Grimes hasn't played but 13 games for the Falcons over the past two seasons.

There will be no sacred cows.

Going back to the 2011 NFL playoff game where the Falcons lost to the New York Giants, owner Arthur Blank was quoted as saying that the Falcons would have no sacred cows in the offseason. No one was safe from being cut or allowed to walk. 

Allowing Brent Grimes to walk would be considered the ultimate sacred cow of them all, as such a move would allow the former "franchise" player to leave.

There will be no sacred cows, but Grimes should join Curtis Lofton from last offseason as a sacrificial one.

 

All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy Spotrac and Rotoworld. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.

Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He also runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.

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