From being drafted, cut, signed to practice squad, becoming the starting free safety, and everything in-between, Ricardo Allen has become an excellent example of what you can do with failed experiments from previous regimes. 2015 was a break-out year for Allen, and 2016 is looking up with another offseason of improvements to come for the defense.
Saving his career with Dan Quinn
Under former Head Coach Mike Smith and Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan, a 5th round pick Ricardo Allen was doomed to play multiple years behind less athletic, veteran players. When camp came and his transition to the NFL wasn't immediate, Allen was cut and then brought back to the practice squad where he was forgotten by almost all of us. Insert a 6-10 season and the hiring of Dan Quinn from Seattle, and you've got a new starting free safety.
Allen led the team with 3 interceptions and padded those numbers with an additional 69 tackles, 5 pass deflections, and 1 forced fumble. Given that he only had one offseason at an entirely new position, it's safe to assume he'll continue to improve with time.
Entering 2016, Allen is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning Atlanta will need to at least offer him a minimum contract for him to remain with the team. Though, we shouldn't be surprised to hear of them working on a long-term deal here in the near future.
What to expect next year
With another off-season of training under his belt and the front office sure to be adding defensive talent via free agency and draft picks, Ricardo should hypothetically grow into his role even more and could become a poor man's version of Earl Thomas.