The Bengals may still want to bring back Leon Hall to help add depth to their cornerback group, but there could be some competition for Cincinnati to win his services.
ESPN’s NFL Insider, Adam Schefter is reporting that Hall is visiting the Giants today and that he’ll likely sign either with New York or Cincinnati.
Bengals free-agent CB Leon Hall is visiting the Giants today, per source. Cincinnati also interested. Looks like one of those two teams.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 3, 2016
Hall already visited the Giants once back in May but left without a contract.
The Bengals seemingly had many opportunities to sign Hall this offseason as he’s remained a free agent since March. What’s making them more interested now is a pectoral injury to first round draft pick William Jackson III. The extent of Jackson’s injury is currently unknown, but it’s thought he’ll miss the majority of the season.
"We've been in contact with players all the time," Marvin Lewis said yesterday in regards to bringing back Hall. "We'll decide on what the best options are based on the projections on where Will is."
Lewis also acknowledged the team has been in touch with Hall and it’s still an option to bring him back. Hall became a free agent in March after spending the entirety of his career with the Bengals.
The former 18th-overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Hall is one of the best corners to ever don Bengal stripes. The problem is, his play has declined in recent years. Over his first four seasons from 2007-10, Hall picked off 18 passes and deflected another 71 as he and Johnathan Joseph became the NFL's best cornerback tandem. Unfortunately, two achilles injuries in recent years have set him back and the thought in letting him leave this offseason was to get younger at the position and give the plentiful other first round draft pick cornerbacks on the Bengals’ roster a chance to step up and show what they’re capable of.
Darqueze Dennard is poised to take over the slot corner role, which Hall served in last year. Though currently, Dennard has a sprained ankle that will keep him out for an undetermined length of time. This is Dennard’s third year in the NFL and third training camp with an injury. Though Jackson’s loss hurts, he likely wouldn’t have played much on defense in 2016 anyway.
The Bengals could be better served bringing in a younger player than Hall who will contribute more on special teams, as Jackson would have been doing had he stayed healthy this year.
But, Hall knows the Bengals’ defense and the Bengals know what Hall is capable of. It could be easy to bring Hall in at this point during training camp and let him get re-acclimated to the defense and working with his former teammates. A new defensive player would likely need to spend quite a bit of time learning the playbook instead of actually showing what they’re capable of in training camp practices.
The Giants' cornerback roster consists of first round 2016 draft pick Eli Apple, undrafted rookies Donte Deayon, Matt Smalley and Michael Hunter as well as veterans Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. With only six players currently at the position and three of them being undrafted rookies, the Giants could probably use Hall’s services more than the Bengals. I wouldn’t be surprised if they offer him more money than Cincinnati. And at this point, it will likely come down to what Hall values more highly, money or his long-time relationship with the Bengals. You can’t really fault him for whatever he chooses.
We’ll keep you updated as further news develops with Hall.