Either way, Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes is set to hit the jackpot.
The former undrafted free agent, who was discovered by former Falcons coach Bruce Plummer out of tiny Shippensburg University, was slapped with the team’s franchise tag.
He could walk into the office at the start of free agency, sign the tender and be in line for $10.281 million big ones.
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However, because Grimes has essentially been on year-to-year contracts since 2007 and because he wants a long-term deal, his agent said that signing the tag is the last thing on his mind.
Grimes made $2.63 million last season.
“We have no plans to sign the tag at this time,” wrote Grimes’ agent Ben Dogra in a text to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We hope to be able to continue to discuss (through) all the issues at the appropriate time.”
At the NFL Scouting Combine, general manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team was considering putting the franchise tag on Grimes. He went on the team’s flagship radio station, 790TheZone, last Friday (March 2) and announced that Grimes would receive the team’s tag.
“That’s at the top of our list, as you could imagine,” Dimitroff said. “We spent a lot of time on this decision and we decided that we will put the franchise tag on Brent Grimes. We are looking forward to continuing discussions with his representatives. We are excited about having him back for the next year, if not more. This is a good thing for us as an organization.”
He also addressed why the team feels that Grimes is worth more than $10 million.
“Our feeling is (that) Brent Grimes is an excellent athlete who can move, cover and break on the ball with some of the top corners in this league,” Dimitroff said. “We feel comfortable with his abilities and the way they he’s picked up our system and has settled in nicely over the last few years that we’ve been here. … Brent Grimes obviously does that against, big, small, fast or slow receivers in this league. We’re encouraged about having him back.”
The Grimes’ camp would like something in the neighborhood of the six-year, $57 million contract the Falcons gave to Dunta Robinson. Grimes has been the team’s top corner, but they are using the leverage that’s provided to them by the collective bargaining agreement.
If Grimes fully pursues the holdout route and doesn’t play until Week 10, the Falcons prepared by getting Dominique Franks and Christopher Owens more action late last season. Also, Grimes didn’t play in the team’s playoff game after a late-season knee injury.
Some contend he was protecting his free agency status over the team’s needs.
“Our young corners had to play at the end of the season,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “Dominique Franks did a nice job. He played our nickel, our fifth (defensive back) and he got a lot of experience. Christopher Owens, because of injuries, had to play as well.”
Much like Grimes when he was trying to earn playing time, Franks sparkled on the practice field last season. Some of the old-timers placed him on the “All-Flowery Branch” team. Like Grimes, he has to take his All-Flowery Branch play downtown to the Georgia Dome.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Former Georgia tight end Orson Charles, who caught nearly 100 passes in three seasons for the Bulldogs, had a rough performance at UGA’s Pro Day on Monday.
Once considered a surefire first-rounder, he might fall and be available when the Falcons pick with the 55th choice of the draft. He ran a slow 40-yard dash in difficult conditions at the Woodruff Practice Fields.
With the wind gusting to 20 mph, Charles covered the 40 yards in 4.9 seconds while running into the wind and 4.75 with the wind.
“Running against the wind was kind of discouraging,” Charles said. “I heard a couple of my times and I feel like I can do a little better. If I had to take anything back, I’d like to take that 40 back and prove that I am like a 4.5 or 4.6 guy.”
Charles, Stanford’s Coby Fleener and Clemson’s Dwayne Allen are considered the top tight ends in the draft and Charles hopes to be the first tight end selected.
Falcons coach Mike Smith has made UGA’s Pro Day one of his regular stops on the scouting trail and was on hand for Charles’ workout.
“It’s part of the evaluation,” Smith said. “You want to get an opportunity to meet these guys and have an opportunity to learn more about them. Obviously, we spend the majority of our time watching tape and evaluating them. This gives us an opportunity to learn more about how they grew up, what they’ve done and what their makeup is.”
Defensive end: With John Abraham slated to hit free agency, the Falcons are looking for a replacement for their top end in their rotation. Ray Edwards, who had an uninspiring first season with the Falcons, will be back after an injury-marred season. With Kroy Biermann re-signed, waiting in the wings are Lawrence Sidbury and Cliff Matthews. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan may want to experiment more with Biermann, who has done a nice job while dropping into coverage.
Right guard: The Falcons drafted Mike Johnson in the third round of the 2010 draft and expected him to step in and win the job. However, he was beaten out by Garrett Reynolds and ended up on injured reserve. When Reynolds broke down against superior athletes like Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh, Joe Hawley – the center-in-waiting – had to take over.
Left tackle: Head coach Mike Smith gave left tackle Sam Baker a big endorsement. He likes the way Baker has played when healthy. Unfortunately for Baker, he was not healthy much of last season. He had back surgery during the season and an elbow ailment hindered his play much more than the team let on. So, if Baker does not return to good health, the Falcons will need to upgrade at this position. Will Svitek battled at the position after taking over for Baker.