UPDATE: According to D. Orlando Ledbetter, agent Ben Dogra says Grimes does not plan to sign the franchise tag tender. We got ourselves an ugly situation brewing.
Thomas Dimitroff announced just a short time ago and it was made official on the team's Twitter feed shortly after. Whether Grimes will play out the season under the tag, taking about about a third of the team's current cap space, or the team will sign him to a long-term contract remains to be seen.
There's bound to be plenty of discussion about whether this was a good move for the Falcons, but it's hard to quibble with Grimes' talent. Over the course of three seasons as a more-or-less full-time starter, Optimus Grimes has hauled in 12 interceptions, deflected a staggering 50 passes and generally served as a premier coverage cornerback. He's easily the team's best cover guy and should remain so in the near future.
If the Falcons switch to a more physical defense featuring tighter coverage, he will remain an asset. If the Falcons are really worried about the physicality and size of a guy outside, they can simply rotate Dominique Franks out and have Grimes lock down whoever's in the slot. I'm not concerned about his role with the team.
The amount of money is a concern, however. The Falcons have been linked to pass rushers like Robert Mathis and offensive linemen like Ben Grubbs and Carl Nicks, and if the team can't get a more reasonable long-term deal worked out with Grimey, a ton of their cap space just evaporated. For a team with a handful of truly glaring needs, that is and should be a cause for worry. I hope they hammer out a deal that will free up a few million in 2012.
The move also obviously means Curtis Lofton will not be getting the franchise tag and will hit the open market, where he's likely to get some big offers from teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons may be rolling with Akeem Dent or taking a hard look at a talented young middle linebacker like Mychal Kendricks in the draft.
Ultimately, the upshot of this is that Brent Grimes will remain in Atlanta and the team will boast a strong, growing cornerback corps in 2012. The price will be steep if they can't work out a multi-year accord, but keeping one of the ten best cover corners in the NFL around is probably worth it in the end. The Falcons would almost certainly have lost him had he made it to the open market, so while I have my misgivings, I'm embracing this right now.
I now throw it to you for your take.