This year’s cornerback free agent class was hyped as one of the better in recent memory and there are valid arguments for that, but each of the top cornerbacks had their warts (except cap casualty Darrelle Revis). Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Vontae Davis all have been inconsistent in their careers, before putting together strong contract years (usually a red flag). Sam Shields and Aqib Talib were purely overvalued. Alterraun Verner has been Mr. Consistency, grading out as a top-24 cornerback on Pro Football Focus in every season since 2010, making all 64 starts, but maxed out at “just” #11 this season.
Given all that, Brent Grimes was probably the best non-Revis cornerback available this off-season. He has warts too, going into his age 31 season with an injury history, missing a combined 19 games from 2011-2012. That forced him to take a one-year (5.5 million dollar) deal last off-season, before he played in all 16 games this season. However, when healthy, Grimes is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 10th ranked cornerback in 2010, 3rd ranked in 2011, and 2nd ranked in 2013. He joined Antoine Winfield, Brandon Flowers, and Jason McCourty as the only 4 cornerbacks to grade out in the top-10 in 3 of the last 4 seasons.
His age is a concern, but this deal has no guaranteed money after the first 2 seasons and the signing bonus is only 6 million, so they’d only incur a cap hit of 3 million if they cut him after 2015, which would essentially make this a 2 year, 17 million dollar deal (4 years, 32 million max value). Given the contracts guys like Sam Shields (4 years, 39 million), Vontae Davis (4 years, 39 million), and Aqib Talib (6 years, 57 million) got this off-season, the Dolphins proved to be smart by locking up Grimes before free agency hit. Only the Buccaneers with Alterraun Verner (4 years, 26.5 million) got a better value signing a free agent corner (except Revis) this off-season.