Monday afternoon’s franchise tag deadline is expected to come and go without the Miami Dolphins placing theirs on CB Brent Grimes. That means the Dolphins and will have approximately eight days to re-sign Grimes to a multiyear deal before free agency begins on March 11.
Miami is in a difficult position with Grimes. There’s no questioning the star CB’s worth, but his age is a bit concerning as it pertains to investing long-term.
Grimes, who will be 31-years old in July, is coming off of arguably his best season in the league. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the second-most efficient cornerback in the entire NFL behind only Darrelle Revis, and Grimes’ 18 combined interceptions and pass breakups were second only to Alterraun Verner‘s 19.
Not only does Grimes make passing to the right side of the field a tall order for opponents, he’s also a ball hawk who has a knack for getting his hands on the football. Those types are rare in the NFL and should be valued.
The problem with Grimes is it’s difficult to gauge how much longer he’ll be able to provide those qualities. At 31-years old, his prime is certainly fleeting. And at a generous 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, there are questions about Grimes’ durability. 2013 was only the third 16-game season he was able to complete in seven years, after all.
Still, Grimes was dominant in 2013. Dominance is something that should be cherished. In today’s NFL, which is seemingly becoming more pass-happy by the season, the ability to essentially shut down one side of the field is something a team shouldn’t willingly part ways with.
All indications are that the Dolphins realize this and are doing everything they can to bring Grimes back, and the player is confident that a deal will get done before free agency. Seeing as though an agreement between Grimes and the Dolphins appears likely, what would be fairest offer possible for both sides? It’s one of the most difficult questions that will face Miami’s new GM given the polarizing factors.
First, let’s determine how long the contract should be. If Grimes was coming off of a career year in his mid-to-late 20s, the Dolphins could lock him up to five or six-year deal without hesitation. Seeing as he turns 31-years old over the summer, though, only committing to him for the next three or four seasons would be in the best interest of the club.
Grimes was the only 30-plus year-old CB to finish in the top-10 of Pro Football Focus’ rankings at the position in 2013. There’s no reason why he can’t maintain his high level of play for two or three more seasons, but banking on him doing so for any longer would be a gamble. Thus, a three-year contract should be the goal with potentially a team option for a fourth season added in.
The more difficult decision will be determining how much to pay Grimes. He was a top-five corner in 2013, but compensating him as such would cost the Dolphins around $10 million per season. Because of his age, there likely isn’t a team that would pay Grimes that much if he hits the open market, so the Dolphins can afford to pay him more like a top-10 talent at the position.
According to OverTheCap.com, the 10th-highest paid cornerback in the NFL makes just over $8 million per season with about $3.5 million guaranteed per year. Signing Grimes to a similar deal would be a win for both parties. With over $39 million of cap space in 2014, the Dolphins can afford to front-load Grimes’ deal as well, which would make cutting him easier in year two or three of the contract in the event his play worsens.
Re-signing Grimes would be a good start to the Dennis Hickey era in Miami.
The offer: Three years for $24 million with $13 million guaranteed.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.