We continue our list of extension candidates with a former fifth-round pick that will go down as one of the best value selections in the Thomas Dimitroff era. If you missed any of the other extension candidates we’ve covered thus far, click the links below.
2020 will be a critical year for the future of the safety position in Atlanta. The Falcons two primary starters will likely be Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. When healthy, that tandem has been among the best in football. The problem is they have not been able to stay on the field. Allen has missed 13 games over the last two seasons, and Neal has been absent in 28, leaving the door open for Kazee, who has shined as a replacement.
Kazee made his mark as a rookie, serving as a reserve and special teams standout, recording 23 tackles and proving to have a nose for the football with two forced fumbles. When Keanu Neal went down in Week 1 of the 2018 season, Kazee became the full-time starter and ended up tying for the league lead in interceptions with seven of them to go along with one forced fumble.
With Neal coming back healthy in 2018, the Falcons coaching staff knew they had to find a more significant role for Kazee, so they played him at cornerback — the position he played in college — early in the season. However, he struggled a bit in that role, and once Neal went down with a torn Achilles in Week 3, Kazee spent the majority of the season back in his more comfortable safety spot. After the experiment at cornerback did not pan out, Dan Quinn said Kazee will spend 2020 as a safety, even with Neal and Allen healthy.
Still, expect to see a lot of Kazee on the field as the team’s Swiss army knife. He’s proven throughout his brief career that he is fantastic in coverage and also brings some physicality despite his smaller size. The Falcons are going to have several decisions to make at safety next offseason. Both Neal and Kazee will be unrestricted free agents, and Ricardo Allen can be cut for just over $2 million in dead cap. Do the Falcons stick with Neal and Allen, who have extensive injury histories, or do they hand Kazee a deserving contract extension to become a full-time starter? It’s a difficult decision, and this year will be the determining factor in how the organization proceeds.