The Buffalo Bills have been investing heavily into their secondary over the past few years.
Former Ravens cornerback and Buffalo native Corey Graham is the latest addition to the Bills' back end. He agreed to a four-year, $16 million contract with the Bills on Wednesday, according to this tweet from Adam Caplan of ESPN:
The investments have come one after another in the secondary. Graham's contract is almost exactly the same contract signed by cornerback Leodis McKelvin (four years, $17 million) last offseason. The Bills spent a first-round pick on Stephon Gilmore in the 2012 draft and just handed safety Aaron Williams a four-year deal worth just over $26 million.
Like McKelvin, Graham will be asked to contribute on special teams in addition to his role on defense. He has been a gunner for the Ravens on special teams and was clearing the way on punt returns for the Chicago Bears' legendary returner, Devin Hester, from 2007-2011. Graham's help could be used most in punt coverage, where the Bills allowed 10.6 yards per punt return (25th in the NFL).
Of course, his role on defense will be in much closer focus. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Graham played 705 defensive snaps for the Ravens (64 percent) in 2013. Of the 473 snaps he played in coverage, 219 (46.3 percent) were played in the slot.
Graham could compete with second-year cornerback Nickell Robey for snaps in the slot. Robey played 629 snaps in 2013 (53.5 percent) and spent 320 of his 409 cover snaps in the slot (78.2 percent). His career got off to an impressive start, as he allowed completions on just 45.8 percent of passes into his coverage through the first six games of the season and just 52.5 percent for the whole season.
McKelvin's contract will be expendable following the 2014 season; the cap relief from releasing him outweighs the dead money left behind in each of the last two years of his deal. Third-year cornerback Stephon Gilmore has two years left on his deal as well.
The Bills are going on their fourth different defensive coordinator in the past four years, and they have not had a chance to build their defense in one direction for any length of time. That leaves the defense with a lot of mix-and-match pieces.
Let's not read too much into this one particular signing, but the Bills may also be trying to get their defense equipped with the appropriate players for new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's system.
Graham's versatility means there are many ways this signing could pay off for the Bills, and there are not many scenarios in which the signing turns into an abject failure.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.
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