TAMPA — The most valuable player for the Bucs is Brent Grimes.
It felt odd typing that, but it's time to say it.
In Grimes' two seasons in Tampa Bay, the Bucs haven't won a game without him. This season they are 4-3 when he plays, 0-3 when he doesn't.
He's 34 and looks 24.
He's 5 feet 10 and plays like he's 10 feet 5.
He's also the NFL's best bargain. Since 2013 he has broken up more passes than anyone. His 19 interceptions the past five seasons are more than any cornerback not named Richard Sherman.
Sherman has 20 and makes $14 million per year.
Grimes makes $6.5 million. He can be a free agent in six games, if he wants to keep playing.
"I tend not to really think about it until after the season," Grimes said. "I'm having fun. I've just got to wait until after the season and see what's going on."
There have been so many stories about Grimes being underrated that he's rated. The undrafted free agent from Shippensburg (Pa.) University has made four Pro Bowls and would be a lock for a fifth if the Bucs hadn't disappeared from the radar this year.
You won't hear Grimes complain. He often lets Miko, his wife of nearly eight years, speak for him.
Brent isn't on social media. Miko is and plays it with sharp edges, cutting up anyone who suggests Brent is past his prime or that she is the reason he has been held back.
Some of her comments are not suitable for work. Here's one of Miko's benign offerings:
"The biggest contract my husband has ever gotten was for four years and $16 million? AND HE IS INCREDIBLE! No cornerback has a better highlight reel than Brent Grimes! NO ONE!"
Miko knows what she is talking about. A former college basketball player who played professionally overseas, she had as her first "date" with Brent a pickup basketball game. He didn't just win, he was incredible. They've been together since and have a 6-year-old son, Aiden.
Miko, 42, put herself through broadcasting school. She had a radio show in Atlanta, where Brent began his NFL career, and she had one in Miami, where he went after he left the Falcons, until she was fired after her arrest one hour before the Dolphins' 2015 home opener. She attempted to walk through an area near a stadium's gate that was restricted and disobeyed orders to stop, an arrest report said. She was charged with disorderly conduct, battery on a police officer and resisting arrest with violence.
A video of the incident went viral. Prosecutors eventually dropped the case and said one reason was because of "the likelihood that a jury would find that the force used by the officers was beyond that (was) necessary."
When Dolphins coach Joe Philbin got fired that year after a 1-3 start, Miko put quarterback Ryan Tannehill on Twitter blast:
"My column: How many people does Ryan Tannehill have to get fired before you realize he's the problem."
"Y'all do realize no legitimate coach will come here if he's our QB, right? We're screwed as long as he's under center! Just admit it!"
Her stated goal of getting Brent released from the Dolphins succeeded. Owner Stephen Ross said he "thought it was best that the Dolphins move on from Brent and Miko" in March 2016.
Brent says he's sometimes surprised by what Miko puts on social media.
"That's her. … That what's she does," Brent said. "She states her opinion. She's always been that way. So I don't just feel like it would be fair for me to be, like, 'Hey, now, cut that out.' "
But as the Bucs prepared to play the Dolphins last week, Miko went silent.
"He doesn't want anyone calling me a locker-room distraction," Miko told the Tampa Bay Times. "It's hard for me not to say anything, trust me. But I'm going to stay out of the way."
Grimes was part of a Bucs defense that forced five turnovers in a 30-20 win at Miami. The Brent Grimes ex-teams tour continues Sunday in Atlanta, where he played five of his six seasons with Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith as his head coach.
"(Grimes is) an unassuming guy, but on the football field he's one of the most competitive guys I've ever been around," Smith said. "I don't think you're going to play a better athlete anywhere. If you want to go do American Ninja Warrior (on TV), he'd probably be in the finals."
These days, Smith said, Grimes is challenged more by Bucs coaches than opponents. Most quarterbacks know better.
At halftime of the Bucs' 2016 season finale against Carolina, Miko texted Brent:
"(You) look bored?. Stay ready (because you) know Cam (Newton) ain't got no sense. Been hit too many times upside the head."
Minutes later, Brent intercepted Newton and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown in a 17-16 Bucs win.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase said that when he was Denver's offensive coordinator, he warned quarterbacks about throwing certain routes to Grimes' side. He cited Grimes' interception against the Jets on Nov. 12 as an example.
"Most quarterbacks saw exactly what Josh McCown saw," Gase said. "You think you have the right coverage for what they were running, and he goes for that post, and Brent played it perfect. … (Grimes) baited (McCown) into throwing that thing, and he made a really nice play by catching it."
So, with Grimes still going strong at 34, will everybody wake up and realize that he is the NFL's biggest steal?
"I don't know, man. It's been my story, I guess," he said. "Undrafted. They just don't check for me like that. I mean, I just keep playing ball. Maybe one day they will."
Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected] Follow @NFLStroud.