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Entering contract year, Corey Graham hopes for long tenure with Ravens

FootballBaltimore RavensCorey GrahamLardarius WebbNFL Pro BowlChicago Bears

Corey Graham joined the Ravens last year on the promise that he would be given a legitimate chance to compete for playing time in the secondary.

By the end of the season, the former Chicago Bears Pro Bowl special eams ace had emerged as an important figure on defense thanks to his strong play and injuries to cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith.

Graham developed into a dependable starter who intercepted two Peyton Manning passes in an AFC divisional-round victory, returning one for a touchdown.

As Graham enters the final year of a two-year, $4.204 million contract, he's hoping to stick around on a long-term basis.

"I would love to finish my career here," said Graham, who's due a $2.05 million base salary, up from an originally scheduled $1.8 million after triggering a playing-time escalator clause. "It's a great place to play football. They take care of the players. They support their players. The fans are great. It's a great place to be. It's amazing."

For Graham to get a contract extension, he'll need to follow up on a postseason where he made 32 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass deflections.

Graham is slated to compete with Smith for a starting job opposite Webb. Both players are expected to see heavy playing time regardless of who's designated the starter.

"That's one thing about the Ravens, they're men of their word," Graham said. "If they say they're going to do something, they will give you a chance to play. As an athlete, that's all you can ask for. That's a plus. We're just looking to go out there and compete. If you show you deserve to be out there, you'll be out there.

"Jimmy's getting better and better. He's a talented guy. He's big, strong and fast. He's picking up the game. In this defense you'll get a chance to play. Being here in Baltimore, they will find a way to get you out there. That's all you can ask for and maximize your chances."

During offseason practices, Graham and Smith, who has lost 10 pounds through a boxing regimen and is down to 200 pounds, lined up as the starters with Webb limited to individual drills.

"Obviously, it's a competition between me and him, but not just me and him – everybody," Graham said. "I'm going to go out there and do my best, and I'm pretty sure he's going to do the same. Whatever happens is what happens."

Graham finished last season with 54 tackles, two interceptions and eight pass deflections in eight starts. He's expecting to make a greater impact this season.

"Obviously, I've got high expectations for myself," Graham said. "I pride myself on making plays, and I want to go out there and do whatever it takes to help the defense win.

"So, I pride myself on doing whatever and making plays for the defense, and that's what I plan on doing. I like to say that I'm a playmaker. I make plays. I get my hands on the ball."

awilson@baltsun.com

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FootballBaltimore RavensCorey GrahamLardarius WebbNFL Pro BowlChicago Bears
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