What should the Miami Dolphins do with Brent Grimes? More specifically, should they be concerned with his age? They can put the franchise tag on him which would cost a little over $11 million for one year, they can sign him to a deal which averages over $6 million to $7 million per year, or they can let him walk and head to a different team.
If Grimes wasn’t going to be 31 years old this season, it would be a no-brainer. He was a shutdown corner last season, racking up 60 total tackles, four interceptions and 14 passes defensed. He had 98 passes thrown his way and didn’t allow a single touchdown pass. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 16.4 and rated him the best free agent cornerback. It’s easy as fans to get caught up in the emotion of the game. Dolphins’ fans fell in love with Grimes last season and they don’t want to see him go. With that said, will a long-term contract backfire on the Dolphins because of his age? Let’s take a look at a two cornerbacks in the NFL who are over 30 and see how their production has been.
Champ Bailey will be 36 years old during the 2014 season. In 2008, when he was 30, he played in nine games and had 44 tackles, one interception, and three passes defended. In 2009, he was 31 and played in 16 games. He had 74 tackles, three interceptions, and 15 passes defended. In 2010, he played in 15 games and had 45 tackles, two interceptions, and 13 passes defended. In 2011, he played in 13 games and had 39 tackles, two interceptions, and 10 passes defended. In 2012, he played in 16 games and had 66 tackles, two interceptions, and nine passes defended. In 2013, he was 35 and played in five games. He had 14 total tackles, zero interceptions, and three passes defended.
For Bailey, his drop-off started when he was 32, continued when he was 33, and then jumped up when he was 34. When he was 35, injuries began to start catching up to his body. The final verdict on him would be that he’s been inconsistent and steadily declining.
Terrence Newman will be 36 when the 2014 season begins and has actually improved since going over the age of 30. In 2008, he played in 10 games and had 37 tackles, four interceptions, and 11 passes defended. In 2009, he was 31 and played in 16 games. He had 57 tackles, three interceptions, and 18 passes defended. In 2010, he played in 16 games and had 79 tackles, five interceptions, and nine passes defended. In 2011, he played in 14 games and had 53 tackles, four interceptions, and eight passes defended. In 2012, he played in 15 games and had 75 tackles, two interceptions, and 10 passes defended. In 2013, he played in 13 games and had 52 tackles, two interceptions, and 14 passes defended.
While Newman hasn’t played a full season since 2010, his numbers are pretty solid and shows that drop off is not automatic once one goes over the age of 30.
Based on this small sample size, we see that there isn’t an extreme amount of drop off once you hit 31 in terms of total production. We do see injuries popping up a lot more and that is a concern with Grimes, considering he came off major Achilles tendon surgery before this past season. Although he did prove himself, you never know when injuries will start to catch up with his body.
General Manager Dennis Hickey must also look at character and work ethic when deciding what to do with Grimes. Grimes is someone that won’t get into trouble, always shows up to work ready to do anything that’s asked of him, and is someone that you feel proud calling a Miami Dolphin.
With all that said, my preference would be for the Dolphins to sign Grimes to a four-year extension with three years guaranteed and the fourth year being a team option. If Grimes is receptive to that deal, it should be done without any hesitation. Of course, he may want that fourth year guaranteed, which would make things a little more difficult because of age and injury concerns after that many years.
Despite that, the Dolphins need to find a way to keep him on the team as he can still be an effective shutdown cornerback for the next several years. If that means using the franchise tag, then that’s what needs to be done.