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Daryl Smith, Corey Graham, James Ihedigbo Want To Return

Posted Dec 30, 2013

Three Ravens defensive veterans will be looking for new contracts this offseason.

The Ravens had a lot of turnover on defense last offseason.

Will it happen again this summer?

Baltimore has several key veteran defensive players that will hit the market this offseason: defensive tackle Art Jones, inside linebacker Daryl Smith, safety James Ihedigbo and cornerback Corey Graham.

As they cleaned out their lockers Monday, all of them indicated they would like to stick around.

But as is the case in the cruel free agency salary cap crunch, wishes don’t always come true.

Each player has a good case for coming back, as they were all starters at some point that played very well in Baltimore.

Jones is still dealing with his concussion and declined media interviews. The 27-year-old former fifth-round pick rounded into one of the team’s best and most consistent defensive linemen with 53 tackles and four sacks.

He could be in line to get a big payday somewhere considering his age and that his stock is still rising.

Smith was seen by some in the Baltimore media as the team’s most valuable player this year. The 31-year-old veteran was signed to help fill in for Ray Lewis, and exceeded expectations. He led the team in tackles (123) and was second in passes defensed (19).

“Most definitely [I want to return],” Smith said. “I love it here and would love to be back. We’ll see how it goes, though.”

Smith was asked whether he has had conversations with the front office about staying.

“I think they want me back, but we’ll see,” Smith said. “Only time will tell. I know they’ve got a lot of stuff to do this year, and a lot of guys [whose contracts have ended]. So, we’ll see.”

Ihedigbo has been in Baltimore for two years, and emerged as the team’s starting strong safety this season. He started all 16 games, made 101 tackles, and had 11 passes defensed and three interceptions. Ihedigbo was a definite leader in the locker room and on the field for the defense.

Ihedigbo said the free agency process is out of his hands, and he’ll let his agent handle that. But he feels like he proved he can remain a starter.

“That was a goal personally going into the season is to prove that I’m a Pro Bowl-caliber player,” he said. “With the support of my teammates, I definitely believe I made that impact.”

After finishing last year as a starter, Graham took on the No. 3 role in 2013. He still made a big impact and was on the field often. Graham had 74 tackles and a team-high four interceptions.

Graham went from a Pro Bowl special teams player to a legitimate starting cornerback during his two season in Baltimore. He has been one of the team’s top playmakers at his position.

“Yes, I would like to be here,” Graham said. “When you win a Super Bowl somewhere, you get the opportunity to play somewhere, and things start to go well for you, you want to be in the place where they gave you opportunities. It’s a good organization; they gave me a chance to play.”

As is the case with many players, the end of the season brings sudden uncertainty.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, whether I’m going to be here or going to be somewhere else,” Graham said before stuffing the last of his locker into a trash bag and walking out the door.

Please Note

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