Falcons: The franchise tag isn’t the right move for Keanu Neal

Falcons: Keanu Neal an option at linebacker?

With the franchise designation being made available to teams yesterday, I broke down some potential free agent targets for the Falcons that could receive the tag from their respective teams. However, could Atlanta use the tag on one of their own players?

In short, no. I don’t think anyone hitting free agency is worth tagging, and Atlanta has been very conservative with the tag in the past (even though there is a new regime in place). Grady Jarrett is one of the only big names in recent memory that has gotten tagged, and even he received an extension before the start of the season. If there is one guy that would make a bit of sense, it would be Keanu Neal.

Neal had a pretty solid 2020 and has certainly earned himself a contract somewhere. Injuries are the real issue, and the franchise tag could give Atlanta the opportunity to see if he can make it through another full season before extending him. However, it still doesn’t feel like the right course of action. The franchise tag for a safety this season is projected around $10.2 million. While that’s reasonable for Neal, I’d prefer to use a transition tag if the team wants to go that route.

With the transition tag, Atlanta turns him into a “restricted” free agent and can match any offer that Neal gets. I think Keanu can be had for much less than $10.2 million, so if the new regime really wants him back, perhaps they can work out a two-year contract for far less. If for some reason Fontenot decides to place the transition tag on Neal and he doesn’t match another team’s offer, the Falcons won’t receive a compensatory pick for Neal.

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