They rewarded him for that, and showed faith that he can continue to play to that level, by signing him to a four-year, $32 million deal Monday morning. The Dolphins first announced the signing, with ESPN's Adam Schefter stepping in to reveal the terms of the deal:
Dolphins gave Pro-Bowl CB Brent Grimes a four-year, $32 million deal that includes $16 million guaranteed, per ESPN source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 3, 2014
Maybe Grimes was just taking the money and running, so to speak, but he had an opportunity to see what he would be worth elsewhere and chose to stay in Miami instead. That's a great sign for the future of a franchise that's been in turmoil for months.
"I wanted to be back but [you] never know in this business," Grimes said, via ESPN's Josina Anderson, "and when it all worked out I was happy."
The Dolphins have a right to be happy too. They frequently asked Grimes to cover a team's No. 1 receiver, whether by locking him down in man coverage or keeping his eyes on the quarterback in zone coverage. No matter the assignment, Grimes was up to the task.
Finding a top-flight cornerback is tough, so keeping those players is of the utmost importance.
Grimes' contract makes him, on average, the 11th-highest-paid cornerback in the league, tied with Antonio Cromartie of the New York Jets. That's fair market value based on his play last year. A four-year deal isn't an absolute best-case scenario for a 30-going-on-31-year-old cornerback, but the Dolphins may have constructed the contract in a way that allows them to escape with little cost.
Grimes will be 34 at the end of his new contract, and although he made the Pro Bowl in 2013, he was the only cornerback 30 years or older to earn that distinction. There's no room for buyer's remorse in the NFL, though, so the Dolphins will just have to wait and see if Grimes is still playing to that level going forward.
For now, the next items up on the docket are to fix the offensive line and take care of a few more big-name in-house free agents.
Randy Starks and Paul Soliai stand out as the most important remaining free agents on that list.
It appears as though the Dolphins are on the fast track to losing Soliai, though. His agent, David Canter, has repeatedly taken to Twitter to air the discord in negotiations and said Monday that this looks like the beginning of the end of Soliai's time in Miami.
@ArmandoSalguero was told multiple times by FO that wasn't going to happen but with the NFL & Dolphins you never really know til deadline— David Canter (@davidcanter) March 3, 2014
The Dolphins should try their best to retain either Starks or Soliai for 2014, at the very least. Losing both would destroy their defensive tackle depth, leaving Jared Odrick and A.J. Francis as the lone starters.
After they figure out their situation at defensive tackle, the Dolphins must have enough money left over to address the serious questions on the offensive line. This offseason, they could potentially lose four of their five starters from the beginning of the 2013 season. They will be rebuilding from the ground up.
Did the Dolphins overpay for Brent Grimes?
There's a bit of a mess left over there from the Jeff Ireland era, but where there's a will, there's a way. The Dolphins had $39 million to play with this offseason before signing Grimes to his contract. Regardless of the terms of this deal, they'll still be sitting pretty. That should give them plenty of ammunition to build for the long term, and the future is noticeably brighter than it was just a couple weeks ago.
Perhaps other free agents will take this as a sign that the Dolphins' locker room is back on the right track. It's not as if Grimes is a lifetime Dolphin, signing with the team out of some sense of local obligation.
By re-signing one of the most talented and most important impending free agents, the Dolphins showed that they will not be completely undone by the locker room scandals of 2013.