Keanu Neal

Buccaneers To Sign S Keanu Neal

After a year back in Dan Quinn‘s system, Keanu Neal will return to the NFC South. The veteran defender is signing with the Buccaneers, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Neal moved to linebacker during his year with the Cowboys, but the longtime Falcons safety has switched back to his initial NFL position. That appears to be where Todd Bowles sees him. Despite being a seventh-year veteran, Neal is 26. He stands to give the Bucs another veteran presence in a safety group that added Logan Ryan this offseason.

Although Neal was on a Cowboys team that housed Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith entering last season, he played 61% of Dallas’ defensive snaps. The Cowboys cut Smith and used Parsons as a pass rusher frequently, helping lead to Neal’s snap rate despite just five starts. Neal registered 72 tackles (four for loss) in 14 games last season. The Cowboys re-signed Vander Esch last month.

A central Florida native and former Florida Gator, Neal spent five years with the Falcons after coming into the NFL as a top-20 pick. He has been more valuable as a tackler than a cover man, but the ex-Super Bowl starter has a Pro Bowl on his resume (2017). Neal has also bounced back from two injury-nullified seasons, having played just four games from 2018-19. He made at least 100 tackles in his other three Falcons seasons.

The Bucs lost starter Jordan Whitehead in free agency but now have two veterans joining Antoine Winfield Jr. at safety. Both Ryan and Neal have notable histories at other positions, with the former being a cornerback for years to start his career. It will be interesting to see how the Bucs deploy their new arrivals next season.

Keanu Neal Switching Back To Safety

Last offseason, when former-Falcons’ safety Keanu Neal followed his head coach to Dallas, the Cowboys announced they would move the former-Pro Bowler to linebacker. Well, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, one year later, the now free agent is making the switch back to the secondary

Neal spent five seasons in Atlanta as a safety, with three of those years being healthy. In all three of those healthy seasons, Neal topped 100 tackles, collecting 15.0 tackles for loss combined in those seasons, as well. So the position move initiated by Dallas made sense based on his tackling prowess.

In his lone year as a linebacker, Neal was third on the team in playing time and tackles among the linebackers behind Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons and former-Pro Bowler Leighton Vander Esch. Parsons and Vander Esch functioned as the teams two starters with Neal playing a significant role as the first linebacker off the bench.

Now hitting the free agent market, and likely seeing the lack of movement for linebackers in free agency, Neal is prepared to make the move back to safety. Neal never quite got to his goal linebacker weight of 222 lb., so he should have no issue getting into safety-shape. Whatever position he signs as, his role on any new team will likely remain similar as a tackling machine with coverage ability.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/4/22-1/5/22

Here are Tuesday and Wednesday’s activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: TE Jared Cook, LB Damon Lloyd (remains on IR)

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Cowboys Place Micah Parsons On Reserve/COVID-19 List

Micah Parsons landed on the Cowboys’ reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday due to a positive test. With this news coming four days before the Cowboys’ recently rescheduled Week 18 matchup, Parsons’ regular season is likely over.

The NFL slid the Cowboys’ regular-season-ending Eagles matchup to Saturday. Even with the NFL’s revised protocols, Parsons will likely not be in uniform again until his team’s playoff opener. Week 18 stands to be Parsons’ first absence this season.

While the Cowboys’ Week 17 loss prevented them from vying for the NFC’s No. 1 seed, the NFC East champions could still obtain the conference’s Nos. 2 or 3 seeds. However, they would need to win and see the Rams and Buccaneers lose to move up. A win and a Rams loss to the 49ers would vault the Cowboys to the No. 3 slot. The Bucs are less likely to drop, having opened as 9.5-point home favorites against the Panthers.

As for Parsons, he has likely sewn up the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year honor. The Penn State product has been a revelation for the Cowboys, registering 13 sacks and an NFL-leading 20 tackles for loss while playing both linebacker and defensive end. No rookie has won Defensive Player of the Year acclaim since Lawrence Taylor in 1981. Oddsmakers peg sack leader T.J. Watt as the favorite for that award. Parsons, who has helped the Cowboys vault from 28th to seventh in scoring defense from 2020 to this season, has the second-best odds for the award.

The Cowboys will have a bit more help at linebacker in Philadelphia. They activated Keanu Neal from their virus list Wednesday. Neal missed Week 17 due to COVID-19.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 12/31/21

Here are the New Year’s Eve additions and subtractions from teams’ reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

  • Activated from practice squad virus list: T Drew Himmelman, LB Barrington Wade

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/22/21

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Dallas Cowboys

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: LB Keanu Neal; as a high-risk close contact, per The Athletic’s Jon Machota (on Twitter), Neal can return after a five-day isolation period

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Las Vegas Raiders

Minnesota Vikings

Tennessee Titans

Cowboys To Move Keanu Neal To LB

The Cowboys will play Keanu Neal at linebacker (via Jon Machota of TheAthletic.com). Neal spent his first five seasons at safety for the Falcons, but he says he’s ready to make the adjustment.

I feel I can play safety, linebacker,” Neal said. “Wherever they put me, I’m going to go out there and play at my best. Growing up, I played linebacker in middle school and high school. Then, we changed the defense, and I switched to safety. So I went to college as a safety, but in my heart, I have been a linebacker for a while. I still have an understanding of what everything entails with playing linebacker.”

The former first-round pick is listed at 6’1″ and 216 pounds. This year, he plans on bulking up a bit and playing around 222 lbs in the fall. It’ll be an adjustment, but old pal Dan Quinn is confident that he can make it work.

When Neal signed in March, most assumed that the Cowboys would keep him in the secondary, since they already had two three-down ‘backers and a need at safety. They’ve even bolstered the LB group since then by drafting Micah Parsons with the No. 12 overall pick, followed by LSU’s Jabril Cox in the fourth round.

Still, Sean Lee is out of the picture and the Cowboys may see Neal as a potential 2022 replacement for Leighton Vander Esch, who had his fifth-year option declined. For now, Neal’s only signed for 2021 on a one-year, $5MM deal.

Neal, 26 in July, recorded at least 100 tackles in each of his three healthy seasons. He posted 106 stops last year — including a career-high nine tackles for loss — and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 33 overall safety.

Cowboys To Host Malik Hooker, Damontae Kazee

3:23pm: Even after the Cowboys agreed to terms with Neal, they still intend to visit with Hooker and Kazee, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter).

1:25pm: Although their Keanu Neal interest may not be for a role as a full-time safety, the Cowboys appear interested in bolstering this position soon. They are set to meet with Malik Hooker and Damontae Kazee, Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News tweets.

Despite the latter two defenders being on Dallas’ docket, the team remains in the mix for Neal, Watkins adds. Neal, however, appears to be on the cusp of a position change. Hooker and Kazee would then profile as potential Cowboys replacements for Xavier Woods, though the recent Cowboys starter remains unsigned. And both the safeties set to visit Dallas are coming off severe injuries. Each tore an Achilles’ tendon early last season.

While Hooker played out his rookie contract with the Colts, the Cowboys’ interest in Neal and Kazee certainly makes sense. The Falcons drafted Neal in the 2016 first round and added Kazee in the 2017 fifth round. New Cowboys DC Dan Quinn was the Falcons’ HC for most of the free agent safeties’ respective Atlanta tenures.

Hooker entered the NFL with injury trouble and has not been able to shake those concerns over the course of his career. While the former Colts first-round pick did bounce back from a seven-game rookie season to suit up for 27 regular-season contests from 2018-19, he is coming off a two-game 2020 slate. Hooker suffered his Achilles injury last September.

Neal’s Falcons teammate for four seasons, Kazee delivered a breakthrough season replacing an injured Neal in 2018. Kazee intercepted an NFL-most seven passes and posted 10 passes defensed, and he started 29 games for the Falcons — all in place of Neal, who suffered major injuries in back-to-back seasons — from 2018-19. Kazee’s four-start 2020 screeched to a halt after his October Achilles tear.

The Cowboys have featured a need at safety for years; Woods’ UFA status has now magnified the void at this position. They signed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix last year but cut him ahead of Week 1. The Cowboys proceeded to allow the most points in franchise history.

Cowboys, Keanu Neal Agree To Deal

Keanu Neal made his decision Saturday. He will stick with Dan Quinn, opting to sign with the Cowboys. Dallas agreed to terms with the ex-Atlanta safety on a one-year deal worth $5MM, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

The former first-round pick played five seasons with the Falcons, working in Quinn’s defense for most of that run. While injuries hijacked two seasons from the ex-Florida Gator, Neal returned last season and re-established his value to some degree.

Neal will receive a $3MM signing bonus, veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson tweets, with ESPN.com’s Todd Archer noting the deal maxes out at $5MM. It appears the Cowboys secured the ex-Falcon defender at a slightly lower rate. The Jets were the other team mentioned as a Neal finalist, and several other teams inquired about the veteran.

Friday night, Anderson noted Neal was a candidate to work as an outside linebacker on his new team. But with the Cowboys having two three-down ‘backers and a clear need at safety, Neal may make more sense to stay at the position he played in five years under Quinn. It turns out the Cowboys have a layered plan for Neal, with Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram noting (via Twitter) he will be used at both safety and linebacker.

Still just 25, Neal worked as a Falcons starter immediately after joining the team. And in his three non-injury-marred seasons, Neal recorded at least 100 tackles. He posted 106 last season, with a career-high nine tackles for loss. Pro Football Focus graded him as its No. 33 overall safety. He will have a good chance of carrying those talents over to Dallas, considering the scheme familiarity he has with the team’s new defensive coordinator.

Multiyear Cowboys starter Xavier Woods remains a free agent, and the team plans to visit with Malik Hooker and former Neal teammate Damontae Kazee soon.

Keanu Neal Down To Cowboys, Jets; Planning Move To LB?

A host of teams showed interest in former Falcons first-round pick Keanu Neal, but the veteran safety appears to be down to two finalists. Neal is deciding between the Cowboys and Jets, veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson tweets.

Initially, the Panthers, Lions, Colts and Vikings inquired about Neal. While Neal would seem redundant on a Jets team that has Marcus Maye, Ashtyn Davis and the recently added Lamarcus Joyner, Anderson adds that the veteran safety plans on moving to outside linebacker.

Neal likely will not be a costly addition, but the multiple-suitor aspect is interesting for his value. After missing 28 games between the 2018-19 seasons, Neal returned to play in 14 for the Falcons last season. While he is still just 25, the ex-Florida Gator will bring extensive injury baggage to his next team. Neal suffered a torn ACL in 2018 and an Achilles tear in ’19.

In Neal’s three non-injury-wrecked seasons, he totaled at least 100 tackles. Pro Football Focus graded him as a slightly above-average safety in each of those slates, so a linebacker move would be interesting as Neal heads into his second act as a pro.

The Jets are shifting to a 4-3 defense; the Cowboys have used that scheme for a while. The Cowboys, in an ideal world, have two three-down linebackers in Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. But injuries have intervened there, creating a need for depth. C.J. Mosley would man the middle for the Jets, after missing most of the past two seasons. The team may still be looking for help at outside ‘backer, and Neal played five seasons under Dan Quinn. Robert Saleh plans to run a similar defense in his first Jets season.