Ever since he signed a one year deal with the Falcons way back in early March, Charles Godfrey has been the obvious favorite for the starting free safety job. His skill set was at least a decent fit for Dan Quinn's defense, there didn't appear to be any stellar competition for the gig and the Falcons repeatedly struck out on free agents they were linked to.
Then Ricardo Allen was moved to safety, and now it appears we've got a legitimate battle for a starting job. Vaughn McClure predicted that yesterday morning before practice began, and that was confirmed when Allen took first team reps later in the day.
Ricardo Allen got a lot of first-team reps today alongside strong safety Kemal Ishmael. Charles Godfrey was with second team at FS— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) June 9, 2015
Allen's path here was anything but easy. After the Falcons took the physical, ball-hawking cornerback in the fifth round last year, they made the surprising decision to cut him last August. He made his way onto the practice squad and finally onto the active roster late in the season, but never saw game action in what had to be a very frustrating rookie season. When Dan Quinn and company arrived in town and picked up multiple cornerbacks through free agency and the draft, his future in Atlanta appeared even more muddled.
The move to safety has changed everything. Allen's lack of ideal height is not a liability at safety in Quinn's scheme, and the ability to make plays on the ball and his willingness to hit make him a fine fit for what the team is looking for at free safety. Pair that with a cornerback's range and you can see why the team thought Allen might be a good candidate for conversion. I figured he'd take a year to learn the position, sit behind Godfrey and potentially push for the starting gig in 2015, but it appears I underestimated Allen.
It's June, so it would be foolish of me to reward the job to him today, but the team benefits if Allen is impressive and ready to assume the starting job today. That pushes Godfrey into a solid veteran backup role, it sets the team up with a promising young player at the position who is under contract through 2017 and Allen's upside could make any early struggles worth enduring. What once looked like a done deal for Godfrey is now one of the most intriguing position battles on the roster, so be sure to monitor it closely.