|Free agent snapshot: Cornerback Brent Grimes||02.14.13 at 11:39 pm ET|
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:
Age: 29 (will turn 30 on July 19)
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.
|Free Agent Snapshot: Brandon Carr||03.04.12 at 7:21 pm ET|
We continue our look at 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason with a breakdown of cornerback Brandon Carr. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window is from now until March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:
Age: 25 (turns 26 on May 19)
Weight: 207 pounds
At the combine late last month, Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel was asked about the possibility of a Patriot free agent adjusting to life with the Chiefs relatively quickly because, at least on the surface, there are some similarities between the two systems. The question came in the context of free agent New England running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis possibly signing with Kansas City, but that situation is a two-way street when you’re talking about some of the Chiefs’ free agents, like Carr.
With Brent Grimes now franchised and Cortland Finnegan likely to command a big deal (if he’s not franchise quickly), Carr could represent the best value on the market if he doesn’t get the franchise tag. He’s going to get good money if he’s available, but he had a lot in his favor: he’s the youngest premiere free agent corner available, he has excellent coverage skills (he had four picks last season and has eight over the course of his career) and has shown himself to be extremely durable (he hasn’t missed a game in his four seasons in the league with the Chiefs).
According to Pro Football Focus, Carr allowed fewer than half the targets into his coverage area to be completed (39 of 79, or 49 percent), and yielded 511 yards in coverage over 1,030 snaps over the course of the 2011 season. As was the case with Richard Marshall’s numbers, the closest example to a New England defensive back was the model presented by Kyle Arrington, who saw 54 of the 100 passes in his direction be completed (54 percent), and allowed 810 yards in 991 total snaps.
The Chiefs just added former Oakland corner Stanford Routt in free agency, which clouds Carr’s future in Kansas City. As for Crennel, he’s on record as saying the Chiefs would love to have Carr return. “We would still like to have Carr back, because Carr is a good player for us and he did a good job for us,” he said at the combine. “But he’s in that unrestricted free agency pool. We’re going to try to keep him, but we’ll have to see how it goes.”
This is not the sort of signing that will lead sportscasts. But Carr represents an upgrade in several areas from the current group of New England cornerbacks. He has experience in both man and zone schemes, and would give the Patriots some positional versatility if they chose to move Devin McCourty to safety (and possibly bump someone like Arrington to slot corner) at any point during the 2012 season.
Why it might not work: There’s still a lot of moving parts when it comes to Kansas City and free agency: the Chiefs could still franchise Carr, but that would leave Dwayne Bowe available. Then, there’s the fact that if Carr does get to free agency, the Cowboys would make him their top priority. In addition, New England has had mixed success when it comes to picking up veteran corners in free agency.
|Resetting our ‘Free Agent Snapshot’ series||02.20.12 at 5:10 pm ET|
We started our free-agent snapshot series last week, and here are the players we’ve profiled to this point:
We have another 10 possible free-agent possibilities in tap, but what do you think of this group so far? Which one of these guys do the Patriots have the best chance at landing in free agency?
|Free Agent Snapshot: Cortland Finnegan||02.19.12 at 1:55 pm ET|
We continue our look at 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason with a breakdown of cornerback Cortland Finnegan. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window is from February 20 to March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:
Weight: 188 pounds
Now this would be an interesting pickup. Finnegan is a feisty sort who is never been one to back down from a physical confrontation (just ask Andre Johnson), a strong, man-to-man corner who could bring a jolt to the New England secondary. Finnegan has played in the slot and on the outside, and brings the sort of physical, versatile presence the Patriots need at defensive back.
Pro Football Focus had Finnegan as Tennessee’s most complete defender, with an overall grade of +15.8 (third among all cornerbacks), with a +9.6 grade in overall pass coverage. (By way of comparison, PFF had Sterling Moore rated as New England’s best defensive back, with an overall grade of +5.5, and +4.4 in pass coverage.) PFF also says that when quarterbacks threw at Finnegan, they were 52-for-82 for 456 yards and two touchdowns — not Revisesque numbers, but certainly better than any New England defensive back over the lat season.
It appears unlikely that the Titans will not try and make a move to retain Finnegan — as of last week, Tennessee hasn’t made any movement in talks with the defensive back, and would not franchise him. When it comes to him landing in New England, he would come with some baggage — he was named one of the dirtiest players in the league in 2010 — but it wouldn’t be the first time the Patriots took a chance on someone with a past.
Why it might not work: As was the case with Brent Grimes, the biggest roadblock might be money. Finnegan and Grimes are two of the best unrestricted free agent corners on the market, and will likely be compensated justly. In addition, this story figures Finnegan might be a good fit in Detroit with former Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, and also lists St. Louis, Dallas, Oakland, San Francisco, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville as possible landing spots for the cornerback, while saying that Finnegan would command a contract similar to the five-year, $48.75-million deal Johnathan Joseph signed last offseason with Houston.
|Free Agent Snapshot: Brent Grimes||02.18.12 at 12:33 am ET|
We continue our look at 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason with a breakdown of cornerback Brent Grimes. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window is from February 20 to March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:
Weight: 183 pounds
The Patriots have some shifting parts in their secondary, but the addition of someone like Grimes could be an intriguing fit with the New England secondary. Grimes is coming off a great year with the Falcons, but Atlanta has some hard decisions to make when it comes to free agents and its defense — Atlanta’s defensive statistical leaders who could be free agents are linebacker Curtis Lofton (tackles) (tackles), defensive end John Abraham (sacks), safety Thomas DeCoud (interceptions) and Grimes (passes defensed). With so many franchise tag possibilities, that increases the chances that Grimes will be available when free agency begins on March 13.
If Grimes does avoid the franchise tag, the Patriots could find themselves with a shot at the Shippensburg product, who has quietly become one of the better corners in the league over the last two years. An undrafted free agent, since the start of the 2010 season, Grimes has broken up 28 passes and intercepted six more in that time frame. Using Grimes at corner, along with Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty (with McCourty continues to play some free safety on third-down and other passing situations) would likely bring an end to the days of utilizing Julian Edelman as a defensive back.
Some critics whisper about Grimes’ character. At the same time, it’s important to remember that over the last four seasons, Grimes has played in Atlanta, a franchise run by Thomas Dimitroff. Dimitroff made his bones in the New England front office (from 2002 until 2007), and has tried to build the Falcons in the image of the Bill Belichick-run Patriots. With that in mind, it seems unlikely that Dimitroff would tolerate Grimes if he were a clubhouse malcontent.
Why it might not work: Money. Grimes is one of (if not) the best unrestricted free agent corners on the market, and will likely command a hefty price tag. In addition, New England has rarely thrown big dollars at defensive backs. (One thing that could help the Patriots is that it appears to be a relatively deep free-agent class, with Grimes, Aaron Ross, Carlos Rogers, Tracy Porter, Terrell Thomas and William Gay all likely to hit the market, which should drive Grimes’ price down.) If New England chooses not to invest in a premier corner or spend one of its first four picks on a corner in the draft, fair or not, it could be seen as a referendum on the Patriots’ feelings on Ras-I Dowling, a 2011 draftee who was injured for most of his rookie season.
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