I was a tiny bit surprised when the Falcons took a safety in the fourth round of this past draft, but when you look ahead now, it really did make a lot of sense.
Coming into the season, the Falcons had three high-quality safeties, and they chose to list all of them as starters on the depth chart. It looked to be one of the strongest position groups on the defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, health has again been an issue with these three, and the closer we get to the offseason, the more likely it seems all of them will be off the roster in 2021.
Damontae Kazee was receiving the most snaps of the three… until he was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. He’ll be a free-agent after this season, and with the Falcons expected to struggle to stay under the cap this offseason, it will be difficult to bring him back. However, even though you never like to say things like this, his injury may make him cheap enough to bring back.
Keanu Neal is eating up over $9 million this season, playing under his fifth-year option. He’s been decent — not the player he used to be — but still pretty good, which says a ton about his work ethic after suffering back-to-back season-ending injuries. Like Kazee, though, he will be a free-agent this offseason, and it will be extremely tough to retain him.
Ricardo Allen is the only one with a year left on his contract after this season. He’s owed $8.375 million in 2021 but can be cut for just $2.125. Given that, he is a likely candidate to be released in the offseason — if he even makes it that far. Allen still carries some value and could be traded before the deadline in return for a late-round pick. Regardless, it’s highly unlikely he’s on the roster in 2021 unless he’s willing to take a pay cut.
That leaves the Falcons with rookie Jaylinn Hawkins and not much else when looking ahead. Perhaps they make it work with one of these guys, but safety is a position that will undoubtedly have to be a priority during the draft. Luckily, you can generally find really good ones outside of the first round.