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Return of Brent Grimes can’t be overlooked

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The veteran’s decision to return looms large as the rest of the secondary takes shape.

NFL: New York Jets at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers made plenty of moves this offseason. General manager Jason Licht was busy piecing together a new defensive line. He worked out two notable contract extensions with Mike Evans and Cameron Brate, while also improving the offensive line by inking Ryan Jensen to a deal. Then, of course, there was the 2018 NFL Draft.

Licht’s moves throughout the offseason were made with an eye on the big picture. However, one move will have more of a short-term impact, which is perfectly okay. That move was the re-signing of 35-year-old cornerback Brent Grimes.

The veteran’s future seemed uncertain after last season, but he decided to return to Tampa on a one-year deal back in March. Grimes might not be a long-term piece for the Buccaneer defense, but his presence this year could greatly impact the future. The fact that Licht was able to bring him back shouldn’t get lost among the rest of this offseason’s moves.

Based on production alone, Grimes’ return is important. He has played 29 games for the Bucs in the last two seasons, racking up 106 tackles, seven interceptions and 35 passes defended. His playmaking ability has been on full display throughout his time in Tampa, which has been especially impressive considering his increasing age. Having Grimes on the field again this year is going to be a major help for the new-look Tampa Bay defense.

Production isn’t the only thing he brings to the table. The stability he is providing by sticking around for another year will help the development of a young Buccaneer secondary. Vernon Hargreaves III is still young and unproven as a corner in the NFL. It’s even possible that he may be better suited for the slot position. The team should be able to figure that out this year, but that might not have been possible without Grimes coming back. Without him holding down one of the outside spots, Hargreaves may have been forced to move to the outside out of sheer necessity. Now, Tampa Bay will be able to see exactly what they have in the 2016 first-rounder.

Hargreaves isn’t the only youngster in the secondary. This year’s draft class brought along two new corners in M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis. Both guys have high upside, but their development can go at an appropriate pace due to Grimes’ presence. With the vet occupying one outside spot, Davis may be able to ease in as a No. 2 while Stewart rotates between the inside and outside. Without Grimes, the Bucs may have been looking at Hargreaves as a No. 1 and Davis as a very close No. 2 that might have been burdened with developing into the top guy very early in his first year.

Grimes’ return allows Tampa Bay some time to develop its up-and-comers. Not only that, but the younger players at the position can learn from his experience in the league. He has been in the NFL for 11 seasons, playing at a high level for the majority of his career. There’s a lot for the newcomers to gain from him. Just think, his return wasn’t always a sure thing. The Bucs should be very happy that it happened.