Russ Grimm, a four-time Pro Bowl guard and one of the most respected performers of his era, said he will tell the Washington Redskins next season will be his last.

His decision comes at a time when the Redskins are ready to announce that he's one of several prominent players who won't be on their 37-man protected list for Plan B free agency when it's submitted to the NFL this afternoon.

The Redskins likely will announce that Grimm, Monte Coleman, Mark May, Todd Bowles, Greg Manusky, Kelvin Bryant and Jeff Rutledge are among several players left unprotected and, therefore, eligible for free agency. Every player not on the protected list is an unrestricted free agent during February and March. Each can field offers for up to eight weeks, deciding to accept the new offer and change teams or to stay under the terms of his current contract.

In almost every case, the Redskins hope the players don't leave. Coach Joe Gibbs and General Manager Charley Casserly spent much of yesterday explaining their decisions to some of their favorite older players, explaining why they can't leave kids such as quarterback Cary Conklin, offensive lineman Mo Elewonibi and defensive lineman Tracy Rocker unprotected.

"I understand," Grimm said. "We're all part of the family, but some of his have to be the red-headed stepchildren. I guess that's me."

Grimm will be 32 next summer when he begins his 11th training camp and said: "I've enjoyed the game. But you reach a point where you can't perform up to the level you once did and you're not happy about that.

"I think they want me back in a backup role. That's fine. To be honest, it's tough to do 16 weeks anymore."

He started the first nine games at left guard last season before injuries moved him into a backup role for seven of the final nine games.

Likewise, 10-year linebacker Coleman learned yesterday that he was being left off the protected list, and he assured Gibbs he would return to the Redskins.

"This is my home," he said. "I respect Coach Gibbs. I like my teammates and the coaches. This is where I want to be."

Bowles may have been their toughest decision because he's only 27 and started every game at free safety this season. The Redskins know leaving him unprotected is a gamble; he's the only starter left off the protected list.

"You don't know what can happen," said his agent, Howard Shatsky. "He loves Washington and the Redskins. But you can't say what's going to happen in the open market."

The bottom line for the Redskins was this: They felt they could protect five defensive backs, and with cornerbacks at a premium, Darrell Green, Martin Mayhew and A. J. Johnson had to be protected.

That left only two safeties. Alvin Walton, the only bona fide strong safety on the team, had to be protected and the fifth spot came down to Bowles or Brad Edwards.

Bowles was left unprotected two years ago and returned to the Redskins. Edwards, 24, was left unprotected by Minnesota last year and got 15 offers, including Washington's a three-year, $1-million package.

Grimm isn't the only veteran Hog who'll be unprotected. May, who is 31 and missed last season while recovering from knee surgery, also will be on the list. His future is more uncertain. He was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The Redskins also made it clear that while several players, including Mark Adickes, Ray Brown and John Brandes, will not be protected, they hope all of them are on the team next season.

The Redskins signed 15 Plan B free agents in 1989 and 12 last year, and this year's 37-man list will include five of those signees, defensive end Fred Stokes and Mayhew from the 1990 class and tight end Ron Middleton, defensive end Jumpy Geathers and Edwards from the '91 class.

PROTECTED..................................UNPROTECTED

QUARTERBACKS (3)

Mark Rypien, Stan Humphries,............ Jeff Rutledge

Cary Conklin

RUNNING BACKS (3)

Ernest Byner, Gerald Riggs......Reggie Dupard, Kelvin Bryant

Brian Mitchell......................Reggie Branch

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Don Warren, Ron Middleton...........John Brandes,

Jimmie Johnson.......................... Ken Whisenhunt

WIDE RECEIVERS (3)

Art Monk, Ricky Sanders..................Walter Stanley

Gary Clark............................. Stephen Hobbs

.........................................Joe Howard

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)

Jeff Bostic, Jim Lachey................. Russ Grimm, Mark May

Raleigh McKenzie, Mark Schlereth........ Ray Brown

Joe Jacoby, Ed Simmons................. Mark Adickes,

Mo Elewonibi

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

Darryl Grant, Charles Mann.............. None

Eric Williams, Tim Johnson

Markus Koch, Tracy Rocker

Fred Stokes, Jumpy Geathers

LINEBACKERS (4)

Wilber Marshall, Kurt Gouveia............. Monte Coleman

Andre Collins, Ravin Caldwell..............Greg Manusky

...........................................Jon Leverenz

DEFENSIVE BACKS (5)

Darrell Green, Martin Mayhew...............Sidney Johnson

A.J. Johnson, Alvin Walton.................Alvoid Mays

Brad Edwards...............................Todd Bowles

KICKERS/PUNTERS (1)

Chip Lohmiller............................Kelly Goodburn