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Free agent snapshot: Cornerback Brent Grimes

02.14.13 at 11:39 pm ET
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Brent Grimes is a free agent possibility for the Patriots. (AP)

Brent Grimes is a free agent possibility for the Patriots. (AP)

We’ve already touched on the possibility of Ed Reed as a potential Patriot here, but when free agency begins, there are a handful of less-heralded players who could appeal to New England as well. Over the week, we’ll look at five relatively under-the-radar possibilities for the Patriots to consider when free agency opens early next month. Again, we have to stress that these guys aren’t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they are players we think would be a good fit in New England. On Monday, we looked at Desmond Bryant. Tuesday, it was Mike DeVito. Wednesday, we featured Danny Amendola. Today, it’s Brent Grimes:

BRENT GRIMES
Position: Cornerback
Age: 29 (will turn 30 on July 19)
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 183 pounds

The skinny: We’ve been down this road before with Grimes, but we feel so strongly about him — particularly if the Patriots lose Aqib Talib in free agency — that we’ll revisit the idea of him signing with New England again. (Last year, any ideas that the Patriots would be able to acquire him as a free agent were scuttled when the Falcons slapped him with the franchise tag.) It’s worth noting that Grimes is not the same guy we profiled last year for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he suffered an Achilles injury last September and spent virtually the season on injured reserve as a result.

Despite the injury, it appears that Grimes has the sort of up-by-your-bootstraps story that the Patriots love. An undrafted free agent out of tiny Shippensburg University, he started 44 games for Atlanta in just over five years with the Falcons, and came away with 13 picks in that stretch, including 11 interceptions in 2009 and 2010. For his efforts, he landed a Pro Bowl spot in 2010. Not an elite corner by any means, but if Talib leaves and the Patriots deem Grimes as being healthy, he would fill that void as an outside corner who would allow Devin McCourty to stay at safety and Kyle Arrington to remain as a slot corner. (For another take on the possibility of Grimes joining the Patriots, click through to this podcast I did with Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, who backs the idea.)

By the numbers: Grimes had his best season in 2010 with the Falcons, when he finished with 87 tackles (76 solo), 23 passes defensed and five interceptions. In addition, it was the first (and only) time in his career where he started all 16 games.

Why it would work: Because of the injury, you have the potential of finding a very good corner from the bargain bin. He has some positional versatility, having played both the left and right corner spots. If Talib departs as a free agent, the Patriots could have their next veteran corner. And if the Patriots are going to build depth in the secondary, history says that they’ll have better luck doing it through free agency as opposed to the draft.

Why it might not work: The injury is a double-edged sword. You’ll be able to get him at a reduced rate, but at the same time, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be getting someone who is at 100 percent. For what it’s worth, the knee surgery he faced as a result of the September injury is the second surgery that will cause Grimes to miss games in the past two seasons. He had right knee surgery he needed in November 2011 that caused him to miss three of the last four regular-season games that year, as well as Atlanta’s January playoff loss to the Giants.

Quote: “Brent’s made a number of plays. Since we’ve been here, he’s been a cornerstone at the position, both left and right [cornerback].” — Falcons coach Mike Smith

Our take: A few things are in play here: One, with Grimes, it all comes down to his health. If the Achilles is healthy, there’s a chance he could return to something close to his old form, which was working as a pretty good corner. Not a lockdown guy, but still better than most. Two, Grimes comes from Atlanta, a team cut from the same cloth as the Patriots — Atlanta personnel chief Thomas Dimitroff made his bones in the New England organization. And if Grimes isn’t in Atlanta’s plans going forward, he would almost certainly give Bill Belichick the unvarnished truth when it comes to whether or not Grimes has anything left. And three, if Talib is gone and they don’t feel like some of the younger possibilities (like Ras-I Dowling) aren’t going to be able to contribute on a regular basis, then Grimes could work. If the Patriots feel good about all three of these points, then it would appear to be a pretty good match.

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