When the Ravens signed Corey Graham to a two-year, $4.204 million contract two years ago that included a $1.2 million signing bonus, they promised him a shot at a role beyond special teams.
Two years later, the former Chicago Bears Pro Bowl special-teams ace has emerged as a valuable nickel back and spot starter whom the Ravens would like to retain as an unrestricted free agent.
Whether Graham fits into the Ravens' budget remains to be seen, but they're happy with his performance after he led the defense with four interceptions this season.
In two seasons in Baltimore, Graham, 28, has recorded six interceptions, 134 tackles, 20 pass deflections and two forced fumbles.
"The cornerback position is a big strength for us," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That’s something that we really like to hold together. If we could keep Corey in the fold, and [general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] feels the same way, we’re going to do everything we can to do it. If we can’t, we can’t, because he’s played so well that maybe it will be one of these deals where … We wanted to keep Paul [Kruger] here, we wanted to keep [Dannell] Ellerbe here.
"We’ve had a lot of guys over the years we’ve wanted to keep here that we haven’t been able to do it. Corey, if we could hold on to Corey, we really don’t have to do anything else at cornerback. We can go with the guys we’ve got, because the rest of the guys are back. A young guy like Asa [Jackson] would be our fifth corner. We’d be in good shape there. If we lose Corey, then we’re going to have to do something where we’re going to have to add a corner to the mix for next year.”
Graham, who intercepted Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning twice in an AFC divisional-round victory last season, expressed a preference to remain with the Ravens.
"Yes, I would like to be here," Graham said Monday. "When you win a Super Bowl somewhere, you get the opportunity to play somewhere, and things start to go well for you, you want to be in the place where they gave you opportunities. It’s a good organization; they gave me a chance to play. When I first came here, all I said was that I wanted an opportunity – they did that. I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve gotten here.”
Graham said he'll spend the next few weeks conducting a self-evaluation of his play.
"Obviously, I’m going to look at my film and see how I played this year," Graham said. "Obviously, being a free agent means that it’s a little different situation. I don’t know what’s going to happen, whether I’m going to be here or going to be somewhere else. I’m just going to leave that up to my agent. I’m just going to get back to work, get back to working out and try to get better.”