The Atlanta Falcons have locked down one of their most valuable reserves, bringing back veteran safety/linebacker/special teamer/interception artist Kemal Ishmael.
Kemal Ishmael agrees to terms with Falcons. One year $2.5 million. Per source.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 14, 2017
It’s an exceedingly reasonable price for Ishmael, who will be 26 years old in May, has been an impressive player since he arrived in Atlanta back in 2013 as a seventh round draft choice. It’s worth taking a closer look at what his re-signing means for the Falcons.
How will Ishmael impact the Falcons?
Ishmael does so many little things the Falcons need that his return is a welcome one. He’s the most experienced reserve safety on the roster, having spent time there under two different head coaches, and he’s started more than a full season’s worth of games there, as well.
Last year, Ishmael got some run at linebacker and looked good doing so, mostly because his aggression and physicality play well anywhere on the field. Given that the team does not have a lot of options under contract currently, it seems likely that Ishmael will get a longer look at that position as a starter than we would’ve dreamt a year ago.
Ishmael is also arguably the team’s best special teamer outside of Eric Weems, so I’d fully anticipate that Keith Armstrong will continue to use him. Even if Ishmael doesn’t start a single game—a distinct possibility—his presence will be felt on this roster.
Where will he be on the depth chart?
This one is tricky to answer, because Ishmael is so versatile and we don’t yet know what the Falcons are going to do in free agency. I’m going to guess that he’ll wind up functioning as sort of a super sub, backing up Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen and also chipping in at linebacker when needed. He’ll have plenty of value—and considerable run—in that role.
It’s also worth noting that Ishmael will remain a core special teamer, probably ranking in the top five for special teams snaps over the course of the 2017 season.
For starters, Ishmael may legitimately get a chance to start at weakside linebacker, where he got some run in 2016 and played impressively well.
Ishmael is one of the better seventh rounders in recent Falcons history, and now he’ll get to continue building on his career in Atlanta, potentially with a shot to start at weakside linebacker. Welcome back, Kemal!