The Chicago Bears were adamant that Corey Graham deserved to be a Pro Bowl player last season.

He led one of the league’s top special teams units in tackles with 25 – all of them solos – and is considered one of the best gunners in the league. Graham may have not gotten the nod with voters, but he’s expected to get the kind of respect that pays when he hits free agency.

He’ll be the youngest cornerback on the open market as the fifth-round draft pick from 2007 doesn’t turn 26 until Monday. Graham has started 10 games at cornerback for the Bears – nine of them in 2008 – and is a big cornerback at 6-foot, 198 pounds.

"Corey Graham is a starter as I see it," coach Lovie Smith said during the scouting combine this offseason. "He's one of our core players."

But the Bears might not value Graham enough to re-sign him. He had exactly two snaps on defense during the regular season, and Graham said before last season ended that he wanted to find a situation where he’d be given an opportunity to compete for a starting cornerback job. He finished fifth on the defense in tackles in ’08 despite starting only half the time when veteran Nathan Vasher was injured. So, he’s got experience and tape for other teams to consider.

"He just wants to go to a situation where he's going to be in a place to compete," Graham's agent, Buddy Baker, said. "Corey doesn't expect to be given anything."

The Cleveland Browns might want to make a play for Graham. Their special teams coordinator Chris Tabor just came from the Bears where he was an assistant. There has been talk about the New York Giants wanted to make specific moves to improve what was a poor special teams unit. Someone will be willing to give Graham a good contract.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune