When the Bills signed free agent cornerback Corey Graham they did it with multiple roles in mind. Capable of playing boundary corner, slot corner and on special teams, it sounded like Graham would be filling several roles for the Bills. On Tuesday at the annual league meetings in Orlando, Bills head coach Doug Marrone indicated there might be a new role for Graham as well.
"What's interesting about him is he can play an outside corner and play it well. He can play nickel and start at nickel and that would be a good competition in there," said Marrone. "He's also a physical player who had about 70 tackles and four fumble recoveries (last year) where he may be in the mix at the safety spot."
Graham was asked more than once after signing with the Bills if he had been told what his role would be defensively. The veteran cornerback was general with his response perhaps because he was told by Buffalo's coaching staff that a few different opportunities existed.
"Wherever I end up, that's where I end up," Graham said after signing with Buffalo. "Obviously I want to play as much as I possibly can, so that's what it's about. It's about competing and it's about being the best you possibly can. Whatever the coaches choose to do, I'm going to take that and do whatever they ask."
"There are a lot of things we've been talking about with Corey and amongst ourselves as a defensive staff," said Marrone. "So we'll go out there in OTAs and it'll be the same thing. I like moving some guys around a little bit and that's the time where you do it."
This isn't the first time an NFL coaching staff has had thoughts of moving Graham to safety. The Chicago Bears had plans to do as Graham prepared for his second NFL season back in 2009. After losing safety Mike Brown, Chicago was looking to fortify their talent at safety and Graham was seen as their best option. He lined up at safety through the Bears OTA practices during the 2009 offseason.
However, after starting cornerback Charles Tillman underwent back surgery late in the offseason, the Bears had to hedge their bets not knowing if Tillman would be ready for the regular season and moved Graham back to cornerback. The Bears also lined Graham up at safety in his rookie season in practices after injuries decimated their depth chart, though he never played there in a game.
The Philadelphia Eagles, who had expressed interest in Graham when he was still a free agent, also reportedly had plans to use him as a cornerback-safety hybrid player in their defense. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was on the coaching staff at the University of New Hampshire when Graham was playing for the Wildcats in college.
Marrone and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz are apparently equally convinced that Graham is a versatile defender.
"I'm looking to get him out on the field because there are a lot of things he can do," said Marrone. "There's a lot of dime now on the field with the way the league is where you need six DBs on the field and you need six guys to cover man to man. You can never have enough good players and Corey Graham is a heck of a player."
"When it comes down to it, I just want to play," said Graham. "I want to go out there and give it everything I've got and play and help my team win any way it can. Whether it's special teams, defense, whatever it is I want to help my team win. Whatever my role ends up being it's ok with me. I'm just going to go out there and give it everything I got and just try to do the best I possibly can."