Does Peterson's Willingness to Play Safety Boost His Value to the Bengals?

LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is considered the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft by many, compares himself to Charles Woodson. He recently sat down for an interview with ESPN's Julie Foudy and talked about the stress of the combine, the upcoming draft and how versatile he can be.

Especially when it comes to his ability to play cornerback and safety at the next level.

When asked which player he compares himself to the most, he said:

"Probably Charles Woodson. I just don't want to be a cornerback. I want to go, at the next level, and show the teams and the GMs that I can play pretty much every position on the field. If they need me to play safety, I'm down to play safety. If they need to blitz off the corner, off the edge, I'm down for that as well."

If Johnathan Joseph wasn't a free agent and if Leon Hall didn't have only one year left on his contract, the Bengals may not be interested in a player like Peterson. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Joseph was tendered as a restricted free agent but it's unclear whether or not the RFA status will stick once the lockout comes to an end. There's a chance that after a new agreement is made, players may only need four years to reach unrestricted free agent status instead of the current six years. If that's the case, Joseph would be allowed to walk out of Cincinnati, having more than four years of NFL experience, and the Bengals would get nothing for him. Their only way of keeping him would be to pay him what he wants or expect him to take a pay cut to stay in Cincinnati.

Even though the Bengals could use their No. 4 overall pick on offense, Peterson may be the best choice for their future. If Joseph asks for more money than the Bengals are willing to spend, which is likely to happen, he could leave and Leon Hall could follow suit the next season. With the Bengals sudden need at cornerback and also with their current need at the safety position, Peterson may be the safest selection with a pick that high.

Not only could the Bengals find themselves cornerbackless after the 2011 season, they're semi-safetyless now. The only safeties under contract for 2011 are Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson. It's expected that the Bengals will address the safety position in the first three rounds of the draft and possibly through free agency, if they're able to, but unless they find an immediate starter at the safety position, they may find that the position is a weakness again in 2011. Peterson's willingness to play both cornerback and safety might make him more attractive to the Bengals, even if they re-sign Joseph.

 Mike Mayock went as far to say that he could be an all-pro safety.

Peterson is listed at 6-foot-1 and 222 pounds, and Mayock isn’t the first media member to suggest a position switch for the over-sized corner. Mayock even compared Peterson to Antrel Rolle, an early-career cornerback for the Cardinals who busted at the more valuable position before resurrecting his career at safety.

However, signing Peterson is a guarantee that the Bengals are letting Joseph walk and maybe it means they're letting Hall walk away the next year. Wouldn't it be better to keep good corners around for a longer period of time than one original contract instead of creating a cornerback revolving door in which they bring in a top-notch defensive back and then let him leave when his contract is up so they can bring in another? Besides, a player like A.J. Green could make an immediate impact on the Bengals offense.

Let's not forget about Adam Jones also. The Bengals signed him to a two-year contract as a backup and to play the nickel position in 2010. Even though his season was cut short by injuries, he showed Bengals fans why he was a first-round draft pick in 2005. If the Bengals let Joseph leave Cincinnati, Jones may be a viable replacement, at least for an year or two.

Really, only one thing is clear, if the Bengals lose Joseph to free agency, it would be nice to have a Charles Woodson carbon copy to replace him.

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