I tried real hard to work up strong feelings, one way or the other, about the DeAngelo Hall signing. I couldn’t—not as far it relates to 2008.
To me the move speaks far more to the Redskins level of concern over Shawn Springs perpetual injury status than it does any immediate expectations for the mercurial Hall.
Unable to count on Springs, with Fred Smoot perpetually nicked, and not enamored of the game-but-limited Leigh Torrence, the team saw Hall as a physical upgrade over Torrence, with far more upside, available on the cheap.
Add to that the fact he’s an option at punt returner—an area that has to be driving the team as crazy as its fans—and it added up to a no-brainer in the short term.
The more I think about it, though, the more I’m convinced this signing is about the future. I think we’re watching the team put Hall through an extended audition, both on and off the field, for the role of Springs’ replacement in ’09 and beyond.
Can't see any way they bring Springs back—at least not as a top 3 corner under his current contract—so they’re going to have to find his replacement somewhere. And since even a first round rookie draft pick would be just that—a rookie—they'd probably be thinking free agency and hoping to land a proven young veteran. Which raises the inevitable downside of a limited pool and grossly inflated contract numbers.
Way I see it, If Hall can find a niche in Greg Blache's rotation , contribute on the field for the rest of this season and convince teammates and coaches his alleged Knucklehead Factor doesn’t exceed their Tolerance Meter, the Redskins may have pulled off a serious heist.
24-year-old, Pro Bow talent cornerbacks don’t show up at your door making puppy dog eyes at you very often. One does, you let him in. Then you give him a biscuit and the chance to prove he's housebroken.
No one doubts Hall’s physical gifts and big-play potential. He wasn't on the field a dozen plays for the Redskins before the ball found its way into his hands. Around here, that's news. But the character albatross hanging around his neck, fairly or not, makes him a calculated risk.
So for the rest of the season, watch closely how he handles and incorporates himself as a teammate off the field. In my book, that will be far more telling than what he does on it.
We can expect mistakes on the field given he’s learning a new defense on the fly. Be wary, though, of anything that even sniffs of character issue off it. If any D. Hall headlines between now and January are about anything other than his play on the field or props for his emerging work ethic, make a note of the date and time; it will likely be his Redskins epitaph.
DeAngelo Hall has been given a great opportunity. He's come to his home town team, to work for a free-spending owner in a city starved for a winner and willing to lavish instant hero status on anyone who helps build one , and a chance to break in as a complementary player without the immediate pressure of being “the man.”
If he can face down whatever demons have delivered him to this crossroads, and do it quickly enough to convince the Redskins he’s ready to be a professional football player, the sky could be the limit.
And if he can’t, well…having taken him out for an extended test drive won’t have cost the Redskins anything they’ll regret down the road.