I'm pretty sure most Bears fans would go quite a ways down the needs list before hitting "special teams producer." So I'll admit I was pretty surprised to see the NFP's Matt Bowen calling Corey Graham a priority signing. His case?
In my opinion, the best coverage man in the NFL. ...That [letting Graham sign elsewhere] will hurt the Bears coverage units - especially on the punt team. This is where Graham makes his money as a gunner. One of the toughest jobs in pro sports speaking from my own experience playing special teams in this league. (sic) He produced 25 solo tackles in 2010 (a big number) on special teams. A lot of production to replace.
A lot of production to replace, but if any team has been good at restocking special teams producers, it's been the Bears, between the departed Garrett Wolfe, Adrian Peterson, Brandon Ayanbadejo, Tim Shaw and now Graham.
Bowen's final recommendation...
My take? Give him a real shot (not a false promise) to win a starting job on defense and continue to show up on coverage units. That is money well spent on a player that can impact field position when he lines up on special teams. And he might just win a job on defense also if the opportunity is there.
I know it's one thing to give a shot at a job, but that is one crowded second cornerback competition (Bowman, Jennings, Moore, Graham). What is this, the Bears quarterback competition of the last 25 years? I love Graham's special teams contributions, and he might be underrated as a cornerback, but as far as including him in the mix, I think I'd rather have some other team pay more to see if he can do it.
He started nine games in 2008, and over his career has one interception, nine deflections, one forced fumble, one blocked punt recovery for a touchdown in 2007, and 100 tackles with 21 assists - not counting his special teams production.
What do you guys think? Graham coming back, yea or nay?