When the Bills handed Buffalo native Corey Graham a four-year, $16 million contract (that could ultimately be worth up to $19 million) in March, they did so knowing that Graham spent the overwhelming majority of his first seven seasons in the NFL at cornerback. They touted his Pro Bowl ability as a special teams player, and articles were written about how the Bills were doubling down on slot corners - pairing Graham with second-year pro Nickell Robey - to better match up with New England.
Then came the owners' meetings in March, when head coach Doug Marrone made an almost offhand remark that while Graham would obviously factor in at cornerback, he could also ultimately be in the mix at safety following the free agent departure of two-time second team All-Pro Jairus Byrd.
With his position in doubt, reporters asked GM Doug Whaley at last Friday's pre-draft luncheon where Graham would be playing. Buffalo's football operations chief was intentionally vague in his response.
"Right now he’s got the flexibility to do both," Whaley said of Graham. "One thing we like about him is he’s a professional. He’s highly intelligent and he’s a good football player, so wherever we decide to put him, we know he’s going to attack it with vigor and be a professional and be highly productive."
When pressed on the matter, Whaley noted that like Aaron Williams, who moved to safety last year but ended up playing cornerback, Graham's utility could be circumstantial.
"I think that’s going to be worked out either way," Whaley said. "That’s more of a coaching question. A lot of times it works out because we get into camp and if we have injuries at safety then he has the flexibility to move to safety. If there’s a rash of injuries at corner, he’ll be predominantly a corner. At the end of camp I’ll be able to give you a better answer."
The Bills head into the draft knowing that they have a more pressing need at safety - where Graham could slide into the lineup ahead of project players like Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks, and a productive limited-role player like Da'Norris Searcy - than they do at corner, where starters Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin are settled, and Robey will make a strong case for the nickel job again. The Bills are likely to address their depth somewhere in the secondary next week, and where Graham starts camp could be contingent on the numbers game in both spots.