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Updated Friday, March 2, 11:30 a.m. ET
This is the 21st in a series of scouting reports on key players who will become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised by March 5.
News: After playing on a one-year, $2.61 million restricted free-agent tender last season, Grimes, who will turn 29 in July, was due to become an unrestricted free agent. However, the team placed the franchise tag on him on March 2. While his fellow starting corner, Dunta Robinson, cashed in on a six-year, $57 million deal as a free agent from the Texans before the 2010 season and has failed to play up to expectations, the 5-10, 183-pound Grimes has developed into the Falcons' best corner. Had he hit the open market, he would have been one of the top corners available. While paying two corners at a Robinson-like rate isn't very appealing to the Falcons, they decided to use the tag in order to prevent Grimes from departing without receiving anything other than compensatory draft picks. The tag for corners is expected to be worth about $10.6 million, according to NFL.com. Grimes does not intend to sign the franchise tag right away, though. A tagged player has until July 15 to sign a new deal, and the Falcons and Grimes' representatives are expected to continue contract talks.
Notes: Grimes, an undrafted rookie out of Shippensburg in 2006, has been the underdog for much of his career. He originally signed with the Falcons in '06, but didn't make the team. He was re-signed after the season and allocated to the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europa. Grimes was added to Atlanta's practice squad before the '07 season and saw his first regular-season action late that season, appearing in two games. He made 14 starts over the next two seasons and showed a knack for making plays, making six interceptions (still a career high) in '09. He became a full-time starter in '10 and has started all 34 games in which he has played (including the playoffs), dating back to the '09 season. Grimes had five interceptions in '10 and was among the league leaders in passes defensed (23). He was named to the Pro Bowl as a replacement for Packers CB Charles Woodson after the '10 season. He underwent knee surgery in November 2011 and missed three games in a row before returning in Week 16. He sat out again in Week 17, and the team was expecting him to play in the wild-card round vs. the Giants but he didn't suit up.
Positives: Grimes is an explosive, quick-twitch athlete with top-end burst and fluid movement. He has outstanding leaping ability, which allows him to play bigger than he actually is. He's confident, displays good technique and is feisty and competitive. He not only is a solid and willing tackler but he has good ball skills and is highly productive. He's aggressive in the air and fights for the ball.
Negatives: He lacks ideal height and bulk. He also has man-coverage limitations and is not natural in a press scheme. He can be outmuscled and exposed when trying to tackle larger receivers. His lack of size leaves him vulnerable to injury. He will turn 29 before next season and might not have many prime years left.
Risk factor: The Falcons know very well about the risks of investing heavily in free-agent cornerbacks — Robinson hasn't played up to his contract, and committing such significant resources to the position with the salary cap in play would be prohibitive when it comes to addressing other needs. Grimes has worked hard to earn his payday, whether it's a one-year deal at the franchise number or if he gets re-signed to a new deal.