Atlanta Falcons Update: Brent Grimes Signs Franchise Tag; Asante Samuel Out

December 5, 2010; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes (front) intercepts the ball as Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) attempts to defend during the second half of their game at Raymond James Stadium. Atlanta Falcons defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

According to sources, Brent Grimes has finally signed his franchise tender. It means that the Falcons will likely have Grimes in their offseason program these next couple months, and only missed him from the offseason program yesterday and today. From now on, I would expect Grimes to be present at these ‘voluntary’ workouts.

The timing of this news is very interesting. Earlier this morning it was reported that the Falcons were in trade talks with the Philadelphia Eagles for their cornerback, Asante Samuel. The move sounded odd to me, as I didn’t think the Falcons would be able to support a very rich defensive secondary filled with Dunta Robinson, a recently franchised Brent Grimes, AND Asante Samuel. Now, I believe that was never their intention.

I think that the whole conversation with the Eagles for Samuel was the Falcons leadership gaining leverage on Grimes and trying to force his hand into signing  his franchise tag before the Draft. The more positions the Falcons have solidly shored up before the Draft, the better. Samuel was never really much of a legitimate target, especially if he never re structured his contract. Samuel is due nearly $10 million this season, and $11 million next season. That is a tremendous amount of money for any team, let along one who had invested $10M in Grimes, and another $6.4M cap hit for Dunta Robinson. No team should ever spend almost $28M on three cornerbacks. Ever.

The bargaining power that Thomas Dimitroff wielded in talking to Philadelphia and getting Grimes to sign his tag is very important, because it really shows how much the Falcons as an organization believe in Grimes. I think Grimes is the type of player that the Falcons want to be a part of their roster going forward, and that Samuel is not. Here’s why.

Asante Samuel is a Cover-2 corner. That means that he does a lot of jamming the receiver at the line of scrimmage, rerouting that receiver, and he plays a shallow zone closer to the line of scrimmage. He is excellent in a zone based Cover-2 scheme because he isn’t asked to cover the receiver deep down the field, he is asked to read the quarterbacks eyes, shift with the receiver in his zone, and break on the ball. Samuel is a defensive weapon in a Cover-2 scheme, but beyond that he is not a great man-to-man cornerback.

Lets look at Grimes. Grimes is smaller, faster, isn’t quite as good in zone, but is better in man-to-man coverage. He was asked to play a lot of Cover-2 in Atlanta, which he did a good job with, but I think his real strength is in man coverage, where he can out run and out perform athletically any receiver in the league. Grimes is better suited to a team who is going to try to focus more on rushing the passer and depending on their corners to hold up just long enough to allow the pass rush to get to the quarterback. This is where Grimes fits the Falcons particular scheme.

Mike Nolan is a very knowledgeable defensive coordinator. He has a lot of experience as a 4-3 coordinator, as well as a 3-4 coordinator. I think that given what Falcons personnel is today, they will mix a lot of 4-3 & 3-4 defensive fronts. When they do that, they will ask the corners and safeties to drop into zones sometimes, and to play man-to-man on different receiving options. The Falcons don’t have elite pass rushers (like the Eagles do) so they need to rely more on confusion and mixing defenses/blitzes to be successful. Therefore they will ask all of their defensive players to be a lot more versatile. The Eagles can line everyone up, rush the heck out of the passer and only drop into defined zones because the have the personnel to be successful in that regard. The Falcons don’t so versatility becomes key.

This is a big day for the Atlanta Falcons as they have their best cornerback sign his franchise tag. It is even bigger because it really highlights how important Grimes is to the Falcon’s schematic plans going forward, and how even one of the best pro-bowl corners may not fit with a specific team. Even if the Falcons could afford the addition of Samuel financially and through loss of draft picks, which they absolutely cannot, Samuel may still not be the best piece to add to this team.

What are your thoughts on Brent Grimes, Asante Samuel, Mike Nolan, or the Falcons defense in general?

Topics: Asante Samuel, Atlanta Falcons, Brent Grimes, Mike Nolan, Philadelphia Eagles

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