That's what the Buffalo Bills are signing themselves up for with cornerback Leodis McKelvin, and they're expecting a lot out of the former first round pick. Signed up for $20 million over those next four years, McKelvin is certainly getting paid like a starter
"I see myself going out there and competing for the starting spot," he said to reporters on Monday. "The contract says what it says, but I'm just going out there to compete and do what I gotta do to compete and make this team be better."
The words 'starter' and 'starting' have been paired with McKelvin since GM Buddy Nix spoke with local reporters at the 2013 NFL Combine, and that was heightened with what head coach Doug Marrone said on Monday as well.
“We’re excited that Leodis remains on our roster,” the head coach said. “Obviously, he is one of the most exciting kick returners in the game today, but we’re also counting on him to be very competitive for the starting corner position opposite Stephon Gilmore. We feel he could play an important role in our defense moving forward.”
Failing to leave a lasting impression on the cornerback position in each of his five previous seasons, McKelvin has another opportunity ahead of him to start fresh with Marrone. The Bills have shown a belief in McKelvin's natural abilities, it's just on him to put it all together.
In five seasons, he's started in only 33 games and has six interceptions. Over the past two seasons, McKelvin got in Chan Gailey's dog house and started only 10 games. However, the cornerback steadily improved when given an opportunity to play late in the year, and now is back with the Bills for an extended period of time.
"Yeah, it's a new start. New beginning, we've got a new coaching staff coming through," McKelvin remarked. "It's just a new chance to show my talent, go out there and compete, show everybody that I can do what I can do and make sure we're changing things around around here."
An see-saw first five seasons had McKelvin reflecting a bit about his journey through the first contract of his career.
"Y'all know it the best. My first five years started out up and down," he said. "I showed flashes of me being a good cornerback, showed flashes of being there in position with foes coming in there and making plays over my back. I've never been a guy that was out of place, or been the person that never been burnt or anything like that. I've been getting beat by spectacular plays.
"As far as me coming in as a corner and me being confident in myself I know I can be a starting corner in this league. Like I said, it’s a new start. All that’s going to be left in the past. It’s time to just get better as a player and get ready for this season coming up and get ready for this group."
Part of the reason the Bills wanted to lock McKelvin up so quickly was due to what Marrone alluded to. Having a return man like McKelvin can put a lot of pressure on the opposing team.
Averaging an NFL-best 18.7 yards per punt return, bringing two all the way back for a touchdown, the five-year pro made himself indispensable in that regard.
"As far as the return game, I’ve always been a great returner," he said. "There’s never been a thought of me (not) being a great returner. There was a doubt just that one scenario in that Monday Night football game. That’s the only thing they had doubt about me is just holding on to the ball. But as far as me producing in that area it was a no brainer."
As for the job at cornerback, well, it's very simple for McKelvin:
"I'm a competitor. I'm gonna go out there and compete," he remarked. "Any job is open, you just have to go out there and compete. Best competitor wins."
And with his fresh new contract, the Bills are hoping McKelvin becomes a more consistent competitor on Sundays during the regular season.