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The Ravens’ free agency silence has ended.
Defensive back and special teams ace Corey Graham agreed to the terms of a two-year deal with Baltimore, the team announced Friday.
Graham, 26, is one of the elite special teams players in the league, and will also provide more depth in the Ravens secondary.
Graham was the NFC’s Pro Bowl special teams representative after recording 22 special teams tackles and one forced fumble with the Chicago Bears last season.
Corey Graham Joins Ravens
Since 2007, the Bears have allowed the fewest yards per punt return in the NFL (6.5), and Graham has 104 special teams tackles.
“I study, I care about the way I play, and I figure if I’m going to be doing special teams, I want to be the best special teams player in the league,” Graham said.
Graham excels as a gunner and on all four core units of special teams (kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return).
He will help the Ravens, who allowed three return touchdowns and the second-most average yards per kickoff return (29.2) in the league last year.
“He is an outside guy that makes plays as a gunner,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He is a dominant gunner. He is a dominant kickoff-cover guy. He is going to make a big difference on our coverage teams.”
But there’s more to Graham than special teams, which is a large reason why he signed in Baltimore after also visiting Seattle and Detroit.
Graham was seeking more of a role on defense, and Baltimore, who released cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr, offers that.
The 6-foot, 196-pound Graham played in all 16 games last year, making six tackles and notching three interceptions in three straight games while filling in as the Bears’ nickel cornerback.
In nine starts for the Bears in 2008, he recorded 91 tackles, eight pass deflections and one interception.
“He is also a heck of a corner,” Harbaugh said. “He wanted an opportunity to expand his role on defense, too. We’ve got a history of that here. Look at what Brendon Ayanbadejo has done on defense. We play a lot of different players on defense.”
Graham talked to Ayanbadejo before agreeing to come to the Ravens. The two played together in Chicago in 2007.
Graham noticed that Ayanbadejo grew from his special teams role into also contributing on defense during his years at Baltimore. Ayanbadejo assured Graham that the Ravens’ coaches recognize talents and give players an opportunity to shine outside of their supposed original role.
Becoming more of a contributor on defense is the next step in Graham’s career, and he’ll compete with Cary Williams, Jimmy Smith, Danny Gorrer and Chykie Brown for the third cornerback spot.
“I’m not asking to go out there and be put at the starting nickel spot or anything like that,” Graham said. “I just want to go out there and have fun, compete, and if I play well, then I know that I’m going to get put on the field.”
Graham said a large part of why he chose the Ravens is also because of its tradition on defense. He grew up watching linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed.
“It just seems like they have fun playing the game of football, and that’s what you want to do,” Graham said. “Sometimes you can lose the context of having fun when you’re playing, and they definitely [have fun] out here, and I look forward to being a part of it.”