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Is Leon Hall playing Safety a real possibility?

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One of the interesting story lines during OTA practices was the use of Leon Hall at safety. With a plethora of high picks at cornerback, combined with Hall's disappointing play in 2014, it has many fans wondering whether Hall may be making a switch.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Many NFL fans like to think every good cornerback can transition to safety in the latter parts of his career and suddenly become a good safety. However, history indicates otherwise. It isn’t unheard of, and a few players have made a successful transition – most notably Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott – but it is the exception rather than the rule. While no one is suggesting Leon Hall is Rod Woodson or Ronnie Lott, he does have the talent, physicality and mental makeup – not to mention possible roster makeup - which makes this scenario intriguing.

Since being taken in the first round of the 2007 draft, Hall has been a staple in the Bengals’ secondary and arguably the most underrated corner in the NFL. However, after tearing his Achilles twice in a 25 month period, Hall – not surprisingly - looked like he had lost a step in 2014. While his 2014 season was not as bad as most fans would lead you to believe, it is safe to say it was his worst season as a pro, and at 30-years-old with two new Achilles’ tendons, you have to wonder about Hall’s role on this Bengals team. With Adam Jones playing some of the best football of his career and two first round picks (Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard) pushing for playing time, the question becomes, "where does Hall fit in?" Hall is a physical corner with good cover skills and a knack for the ball – all qualities that would make for a quality safety. But, could he play safety? And maybe more importantly, would he want him to play safety?

According to reports from OTAs the Bengals believe he has the capability of playing safety. And they had him play a bit at the position during OTA’s. According to Paul Guenther, it was more as a three cornerback set and they were just taking a look at Hall there because of injuries. Either way, Hall stated he is open to switching to safety if it would help the team:

"I’m not taking [playing safety] out of the scenario...if that time comes and they feel like it’s necessary [to move to safety] I wouldn’t retire because of it... The more you can do the better. If I feel I can succeed at it and it helps the team, I’m all for it."

That week, we talked to Geoff Hobson on our Inside the Jungle Podcast and we brought up the Hall at safety idea. Hobson agreed with Guenther that Hall won’t be playing safety in 2015, however, he did agree that Hall’s role on this team will be an interesting storyline in camp. If Hall looks like he did in 2014, he’ll be the fourth best corner on the team (Jones, Kirkpatrick, Dennard), but will be raking in the fourth highest salary, behind only Dalton, Atkins, and Dunlap on the Bengals. At which point, it makes you wonder if he might be a cap casualty? I doubt it, but it would be possible.

The more interesting scenario to me will be 2016, when Hall’s contract, along with the contracts of both starting safeties (Reggie Nelson, George Iloka) will expire. Nelson, due to age and cap space, will likely not be re-signed after 2015. The Bengals will want to re-sign Iloka, however, he will be a hot commodity and with the number of free agents the Bengals will have in 2016, re-signing Iloka could be difficult. If the Bengals find themselves in a situation where Nelson and Iloka sign elsewhere, they would be left with a lot of youth and inexperience at the safety position – in which case the possibility of Hall moving to safety becomes much more likely. Either way, if everyone stays healthy, Hall won’t be playing safety in 2015. Beyond that is anyone’s guess.