One of the most intriguing position battles for the Buffalo Bills this offseason is figuring out who will fill the void after the departure of safety Jairus Byrd.
Last season, Aaron Williams made the transition from cornerback to safety and elevated his game in the process. He tallied 82 tackles, four interceptions and a forced fumbled, which earned him a four-year, $26 million contract extension after the end of last season.
Williams has secured his spot as a starting safety, but who will play opposite him?
Some of the potential players that come to mind include Da’Norris Searcy, Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks. Out of those choices, it would appear that Searcy would be the top candidate. He filled in for an injured Byrd to begin the 2013 season and played well. He’s also the most experienced out of the three, entering his fourth year in the NFL this season.
There’s also a fourth option that isn’t as obvious, but makes the most sense. Corey Graham should be the Bills’ starting free safety for the upcoming season.
When the Bills signed Graham to a four-year deal, worth up to $20 million, they brought in a player to have an immediate impact. Although he’s experienced as a nickel cornerback, the Bills have a bigger role for him and already have a player on their roster to cover the slot receiver. Nickell Robey showed flashes of brilliance last season. His speed and aggressiveness will help him excel as the nickel cornerback.
Graham, who’s entering his eighth season in the NFL, combined for 134 tackles, six interceptions and a forced fumbled playing for the Baltimore Ravens for the past two years. His experience will prove to be valuable playing as part of the last line of defense. He has the ability to read the quarterback’s eyes to make a play on the ball and his speed allows him to track down receivers and make a big return after an interception.
The presence of veterans in the Bills’ secondary will be vital to their success against Tom Brady and other veteran quarterbacks and gives them a chance to pick apart guys like Geno Smith and Ryan Tannehill.
Corey Graham won’t deliver punishing hits or be a shutdown player, but he will provide smart, consistent play at safety for the Buffalo Bills.