Like the rest of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates, Brent Grimes packed up his locker on Monday morning and prepared to leave One Buccaneer Place, the 2017 season quickly put in the rearview mirror. Before Grimes left, however, Head Coach Dirk Koetter tried to convince him to make it a round trip.
"I tried to give him a sell job this morning," said Koetter in his end-of-season address to the media about an hour later. "I told him we would love to have him back. I think Brent defies his real age and there have been other guys around the league that have been able to do that. He's a free agent, so he's in control of it, but we'd love to have him back, and I told him that."
In some ways, the reaction to this revelation – the Buccaneers want their best cornerback to come back next year – should be along the ways of, "Well, yeah." But Grimes has played out the two-year contract he signed in March of 2016 and will turn 35 before the start of the Bucs' next training camp. That makes Grimes still very much a young man, but on the older end of the NFL's pool of cornerbacks. It was reasonable to believe, when Grimes signed that contract 21 months ago, that it could be his last, that he would choose to hang up his cleats when the 2017 season ended.
Maybe he will. Maybe he won't. He's going to figure that out in the weeks ahead, but he said he wouldn't take too long to make the decision.
"I've got some stuff to think about, but they made it clear that they like what I do and would like to have me back," said Grimes. "So that's a good thing, but right now I'm just going to go home, relax and think about it for a little bit. I'll have my answer; I won't have people in limbo too long."
Grimes has made this a tougher decision – for him, not the Buccaneers – by stringing together a pair of excellent seasons. He led the NFL in passes defensed in 2016, with 24, and was the Bucs' leader in that category again in 2017. He tied for team lead in interceptions in each of his two years as a Buccaneer, with four in 2016 and three in 2017. He is the only player in the NFL who has recorded at least three interceptions in each of the past five seasons. On a Tampa Bay defense that was plagued by various inconsistencies at times in 2017, Grimes was a consistently effective performer.
As such, the Buccaneers didn't want Grimes to leave the building without knowing how much they valued him. It was a brief conversation, not a contract negotiation – that, too, could ultimately weigh into the outcome – but it got the point across.
"No, I didn't get an offer yet but they just made it clear that they do want me back, and that's always a good thing," said Grimes. "I like Dirk. I like the coaching staff, I like this team, I like the city. It was fun. All of that will definitely weigh into my decision."
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Perhaps helping the Buccaneers in their quest to convince Grimes to return is that the veteran defender didn't finish the season with a bad taste in his mouth due to the team's unexpectedly poor win-loss record. Grimes still enjoyed playing for the Buccaneers, and given what he values about his profession, that was crucial.
"It was not fun in the aspect that we were 5-11, but it was a really fun team," said Grimes. "We had fun out there playing. The games didn't always end the way we wanted them to end as an outcome, but it was fun. We were all out there having fun competing, just having fun playing, and that's what football is really all about. So that's something we definitely, as a team, can build on."
Grimes also appreciated the spirit his teammates showed during a tough stretch of narrow losses. That tells him that, if he comes back in 2018, he'll be playing for a team that truly has a chance to fulfill its high expectations.
"We had plenty of chances just to fold up – injuries, things happening, a lot of people missing game, a lot of people nicked up, but we just fought and it made this thing fun," he said. "Like I said, it didn't turn out how we wanted, but it could have been worse.
"That's a positive we can take from year, that the team fought together to the very end, as you can see with the last game."