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Saying goodbye to former Bengals cornerback Leon Hall

We look back on the illustrious career of one of the Bengals’ greatest cornerbacks who is now off to New York to play with the Giants after nine years in Cincinnati.

Wild Card Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With the 18th pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Leon Hall, a cornerback out of Michigan coming into the league with high expectations as one of the best coverage cornerbacks in college. Receiving comparisons to Ronde Barber, the Bengals would have been crazy to pass up a talent like Hall, despite having already drafted Jonathan Joseph the previous year and having talented starters at the position in Tory James and Deltha O’Neal.

During his time in Cincinnati, Hall was the perfect model of a hard working, nose to the grindstone kind of professional. Together, with Joseph, he helped to put together one of the most potent cornerback tandems in the NFL from 2007-2010.

His efforts helped him earn a $39 million contract with $14.1 million guaranteed before the 2011 season. Unfortunately, the move was a tough decision to make as the Bengals knew they could only keep Hall or Joseph due to salary cap concerns. Hall was given the extension, so Joseph left to join the Houston Texans, with whom he remains to this day.

Unfortunately, injury concerns began to plague Hall and define his career after the extension. In 2011, he only made it to Week 9 before tearing his Achilles tendon against the Pittsburgh Steelers and ending the season on Injured Reserve. He returned in 2012, recording 24 tackles, 11 passes deflected, two interceptions, and a touchdown. It wasn’t quite the same impact he was having prior to his injury, but it was enough to give fans hope for the future once he shakes off the rust.

That hope was derailed yet again by another torn Achilles in 2013 against the Detroit Lions. He returned to starting duties in 2014, but was unable to put up the kind of statline that fans were used to from him. He did post his highest tackle total since 2009 (49), but he only recorded a single interception and eight pass deflections in 15 starts, a feat that was almost equaled by his statline over five starts in 2013.

He played well in 2015, despite only starting four games, recording 44 tackles, two interceptions, one touchdown, and eight pass deflections. Still, it wasn’t really up to the same standards that he set for himself prior to the injury problems.

However, while Hall didn’t make it back to reaching the potential he once had, he made up for in being a great veteran presence for the young defensive backs on the team. In a way, he also helped to balance out the hyper-emotional and aggressive personality of veteran star cornerback Adam Jones. It gave young Bengals cornerbacks like Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick an opportunity to learn from two great veteran cornerbacks with completely different approaches to the game.

Unfortunately, being a great mentor and decent corner wasn’t enough for the Bengals as they push forward and test their youth. Instead of being a backup on the team for whom he’s played for nine seasons, Hall decided to join the New York Giants, who offered a one year contract worth up to $2 million.

This year, it appears the Bengals are setting up the cornerback position much in the same way as they did in 2007. With their first round pick this year, they selected William Jackson III, a cornerback out of Houston, despite already having talented starters in Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick as well as a young former first round pick in Darqueze Dennard. Jackson is seen as a fantastic coverage corner, much like Hall was. So, the hope is that he will help to re-energize a Bengals cornerback position that will surely miss the contributions of Hall. Unfortunately, Jackson is injured and will miss at least a few months of playing time, if not the whole year, but, he is the future of the Bengals’ cornerback position.

Now that Hall has moved on to the Giants and seemingly ended his playing career with the Bengals, it’s unfortunately time to say goodbye. Throughout his career, he was by far one of the Bengals’ best assets in some form or another, albeit more indirectly in his later career. Even through all of the injury issues, his sheer presence on the team was regularly felt in his influence on the younger players. If any young corner on the team can come close to developing Hall’s work ethic and football intelligence, the Bengals will be doing pretty well.

Goodbye, Leon Hall, you will be sorely missed.