Free Agent Scouting Report: How “Pacman” Jones & Leon Hall Could Fit in Miami
For our first free agency scouting report of the offseason, we will actually be discussing two players: Adam Jones and Leon Hall. Both players are former members of the Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive backfield. Considering this, there is an understandable buzz of a potential reunion between either Jones or Hall, and new Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, Jones’ and Hall’s former position coach. Here is our analysis of Jones and Hall as potential targets, and their fit in Miami.
First, lets start off with Adam Jones. At the beginning of his career, he was better known for his off-the-field behavior than his in-game performance. Jones, the Tennessee Titans’ sixth overall pick of the 2005 draft, spent most of his career in Tennessee becoming one of the more infamous players in the league. In fact, he was arrested for assault, felony vandalism, possession of marijuana, and public intoxication (just to name a few) at various points throughout the 2005 and 2006 seasons. However, Jones’ career has gradually turned around since being suspended for his multiple citations and involvement in a Las Vegas shooting case. After a very brief stint as a Cowboy in Dallas and a season in the Canadian Football League, Jones landed with the Bengals in Cincinnati in 2010. And while he still has a tendency to blowup every once in awhile, or go on the occasional rant, it seems that he has mostly cleaned up his act.
Jones is now Pro Football Focus’ fourth overall cornerback about to hit free agency. Over his past three seasons, the veteran cornerback has averaged nearly 50 tackles, 12 passes defended, and 3 interceptions, in addition to 1 total sack, 2 forced fumbles and 1 pick-six. It is also important to note that Jones started 14 games this season, the most he has started since his final season with the Titans.
Leon Hall, on the other hand, has never had these behavioral concerns. The 18th pick of the 2007 NFL Draft out of the University of Michigan has spent his entire career in Cincinnati. Despite never receiving a Pro Bowl nod, Hall has long been considered one of the better cover nickel-corners in the league. Rated by Pro Football Focus as the 9th overall cornerback hitting free agency this offseason, Jones has averaged approximately 41 total tackles, 3 interceptions, and 12 passes defensed over the course of his 9-year career.
Both Jones and Hall are known for their abilities in coverage. With Jones manning the outside, and Hall blanketing the opposing slot receiver, a healthy Cincinnati has had one of the better performing defensive backfields in the league. In fact, Jones has never finished a season with a below-average coverage grade since the creation of Pro Football Focus, and has acted as the Bengals’ number one corner for most of his 2015 Pro Bowl season.
Jones also provides value in the return game. Watch the play below from 2012 for an example of how explosive he can truly be. He has averaged 11+ yards per punt return in three of his past fours seasons. Mix Jones’ performance in coverage and returning kicks with his physical presence, in both the pass and run game, and you have a player that should generate a ton of interest as a free agent.
Hall’s biggest contributions often come from covering the opposing team’s slot receiver. As Jarvis Landry has shown us, slot receivers can be dangerous weapons for an offense, and not all cornerbacks can find success covering the slot. Hall excels at it. Having Hall on defense can take a ton of pressure off of his teammates. His presence often makes the threat of a big play from the slot much less daunting, and this could be essential with the gradual increase in spread offenses around the league. While Hall is not your typical physical specimen, he uses his flawless technique to shut down opposing receivers and consistently out-smarts his competitors to the point where it almost looks as if he is the player running the routes.
Hall’s above-average coverage abilities and veteran presence would be a welcome addition to any squad.
One extremely obvious negative stands out about both Jones and Hall as free agents: their age. At 33 and 31 respectively, the duo is supposed to be past their prime and on the downside of their careers. While each has continued to play at a high level when on the field, it’s fair to wonder how much longer they can keep it up. In addition, it makes signing them to a lengthy contract extremely risky.
Hall has also had his fair share of injuries over his career. In 2013, his second torn Achilles forced him to miss 11 out of 16 games. He stayed healthier this past season, but it was largely due to the fact that he only started 4 games in attempts to avoid injury. His performance over the past two seasons suggests he can still be an asset to a defensive unit, but it is understandable to wonder how much more wear-and-tear his body can take as he approaches his mid-30s. The combination of his age and his injuries has resulted in some rather disappointing results on field when compared to his overall body of work. Take a look at how he gets absolutely burned by Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Martavis Bryant toward the end of the 2014 season.
There are a few questions surrounding Jones as well. Although Jones hasn’t played as many snaps as your typical 33-year old, (considering his suspensions and 2009 absence from the NFL) his age still suggests that he can only be considered a short-term solution. He has also had his fair share of missed tackles, with 35 since 2013, and is prone to make boneheaded mistakes like the play below; none are bigger than his penalty during this year’s playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Teams interested in him will have to keep these in consideration as well.
When considering the positives and negatives of Leon Hall in an attempt to make a potential contract comparison, I immediately thought of DeAngelo Hall. Both are older cornerbacks with very specific skills that teams find valuable: DeAngelo Hall is a ball hawk, while Leon Hall is an accomplished nickel corner. The Washington Redskins’ defensive back signed his current contract of 4 years: $17 million in 2014 at the age of 30. D. Hall had maintained a high level of play up until that point, but there were still concerns that his play would begin to deteriorate as his body continued to age. These are much like the concerns regarding L. Hall. With that being said, the Bengals’ cornerback is also slightly older than the Redskins’ defensive back was at the time he signed his contract, and has added injury concerns as well. Nonetheless, I think it is fair for the nickel corner to expect a contract similar to his counterpart’s (somewhere in the range of 3-4 years at around $4-5 million on average).
Jones’ contract situation was a little more difficult to analyze. His age suggests that he should be less expensive to obtain than Hall, but his play states otherwise. This is similar to Tramon Williams’ situation last offseason. Williams, an adept cover corner even at the age of 31, signed with the Browns after spending his entire career with the Green Bay Packers. In the three years prior to signing with the Browns, Williams averaged approximately 58 total tackles, 13 passes defended and 3 interceptions. These numbers are extremely similar to Jones’ over the past three seasons, and while Jones’ past behavior is an obvious negative, he also provides value by returning punts. Based on this logic, the likely cost of signing Jones would be similar to, if not a little less expensive than, Williams’ contract of 3 years, for a total of $21 million.
How They Fit in Miami:
Both Jones and Hall would be welcomed additions to Miami. The defense starts this offseason with a huge need at cornerback, meaning talent must be added to the position either through the draft or free agency. In my opinion, it would be smart for the Dolphins to sign a veteran stopgap at defensive back, and add some young talent on day two of the draft. Players like William Jackson and Kendall Fuller (out of the University of Houston and Virginia Tech, respectively) could potentially be available for the Dolphins at the beginning of round two. Having Adam Jones or Leon Hall in addition to Brent Grimes would make this an experienced defensive backfield for the Dolphins, which would not only improve the play of the defense in the short-term, but also have a positive impact on the young talent they add to the position in the long-term.
My gut tells me that both Jones and Hall would prefer to stay in Cincinnati, and the Bengals would likely welcome them back. Hall has spent nine seasons with the team, while Jones rejuvenated his career as part of the organization. This may mean that they could potentially return for a hometown discount. However, the Bengals may not be able to afford both corners, and it is quite obviously a possibility that they follow Joseph to Miami as well. Both players have raved about the effects that Joseph has had on their respective careers, and they may not want this working relationship to end just yet. It is impossible to know who may garner more interest from the Dolphins, but we can expect that the franchise is at least doing their due-diligence in considering the possibility of signing them.