Looking to bolster their coverage units, which struggled during the 2011 season, the Ravens have agreed to terms on a two-year deal with cornerback and special teams standout Corey Graham.
Graham, a fifth-round pick out of New Hampshire in 2007, has played five NFL seasons, all with the Chicago Bears. His 75 special teams tackles since 2007 rank third in the NFL during that span, and he represented the Bears in the Pro Bowl last year.
“I definitely see myself making an impact," said Graham at a news conference this afternoon at the Ravens' team facility. "I’m just happy to be here. Let me start off with that. I just want to get out there and compete. Honestly, I don’t know what the future is going to hold. Obviously on special teams, I’m going to go out there and just try to lead by example and go out there and make plays and try to help my team win any way I possibly can.”
Graham became the first free agent from another team to sign with the Ravens since the market opened last Tuesday.
The Ravens have signed three of their own free agents – veteran center Matt Birk, young linebacker Chavis Williams and veteran linebacker and special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo – while losing five, including starters Ben Grubbs, Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding.
Asked why he made the decision to sign with the Ravens, Graham said, "Honestly, it was the tradition, the tradition of Baltimore and the Ravens and the way the defense plays. They play hard, they play physical, and they win. When it came down to it, I wanted to come to an organization that wins and I feel like I’ll get the opportunity to play and grow as a player.”
Graham, who also visited with the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks, said that an opportunity to play more regularly on defense factored in his decision. Graham played three games as the Bears nickel back this past season and had an interception in each game.
According to the Chicago Tribune, he played 87 snaps on defense during the season after getting just two in 2010.
“I’m just going to get a chance to compete," Graham said. "Honestly, when it comes down to it, they said that they’ll make places for guys that earn it. I’m not asking for a spot or anything like that. I just want to compete. If I go out there and I play well, then I’ll get a chance. That’s all you can ask for from a team. I’m not asking to go out there to be put at the starting nickel spot or anything like that. I just like to have fun and compete and know that If I play well, then I’m going to be put on the field.”
The Ravens are constantly looking to upgrade their depth at cornerback, but they obviously see Graham helping mainly on special teams.
The Ravens have discussed upgrading their coverage units after they emerged as problem areas last season. The Ravens allowed 29.2 yards per kickoff return, the second highest total in the NFL, and 11.9 yards per punt return, the ninth highest total in the NFL. They also permitted three return touchdowns.
"I’ve been playing special teams my whole career, ever since I’ve been in the NFL," he said. "I’ve played some defense and I’ve played some different positions but special teams have been a constant all five years I’ve been in the league. It’s what got me by, it’s what made me who I am today. It’s what kept me in the league. There was times where I thought I was done. I put a lot into it. I go, I study, I care about the way I play. I figure if I’m going to do special teams, I want to be the best special teams player in the league.”
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