When Dan Quinn first arrived in Atlanta back in 2015, Ron Parker was one of the rumored apples of his eye. Parker emerged early on as a potential free agent target for Atlanta, which at the time was quietly planning to break in Ricardo Allen at safety and had William Moore at the other safety spot, and it was a mild surprise when they didn’t end up landing him.
Fast forward three seasons and Quinn is established as one of the better Falcons coaches ever, having helped pilot Atlanta to just its second Super Bowl bid and fresh off a weirdly disappointing season that saw the Falcons make it to the Divisional Round. Parker spent three seasons as a starting safety for the Chiefs, with two excellent years and a mediocre 2017 that saw him enter the open market again. The Falcons were seemingly lucky to land the talented veteran on a cheap, one-year deal, but where is he going to play?
Given that Ricardo Allen is a rock solid starter and Keanu Neal is an emerging star, Parker doesn’t seem likely to be a starter. Damontae Kazee is good enough and promising enough that he may actually be ahead of Parker on the depth chart, too, and if that’s the case the former Chief begins to feel like a luxury signing. But because of his starting-caliber talent, where and when he’ll play still feels like a big question.
My guess? Parker will end up being the nominal third safety for the 2018 season, with Kazee getting time at safety, cornerback, and especially on special teams before stepping into a larger role next year. Despite a quieter year in 2017, Parker’s a genuine talent at the safety position, with the speed, athleticism and physicality to be an asset for a defense that prizes all of those traits. The Falcons are still likely to use three safety sets sparingly, but when they do, Parker should be on the field, and he’ll likely draw some time if anything happens to Keanu Neal or the team just wants to give him a rest.
In summary, expect Parker to have a small but potentially significant role. I’m hopeful he’ll be as good as he was in 2015 and 2016 for the Chiefs, giving Atlanta an even more absurdly deep secondary than they already had.
What do you expect from Parker?