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S Chris Cooper should get first NFL game action for Falcons in Week 17

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The Falcons quietly added the 25-year-old safety, who has spent the entire year on the practice squad, to the active roster.

Atlanta Falcons v Miami Dolphins Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The Falcons have some interesting questions looming at the safety position in 2020. Damontae Kazee will be here and is a virtual lock to have a significant role, but Ricardo Allen is no lock to return (even if he should) and Keanu Neal is coming off of a significant injury. The depth behind those players has been decimated by injury, and core special teamers and reserves Kemal Ishmael and Sharrod Neasman are both impending free agents.

That makes Chris Cooper’s elevation in time for today’s game against the Buccaneers legitimately interesting. It got lost yesterday, given that few of us were thinking about the game ahead with the news out of Flowery Branch, but the 25-year-old safety who has spent the entire year on the practice squad is now going to be active.

I’d like to see him play. Cooper looked like a strong bet for the roster early in the summer, but he had an uneven preseason at both cornerback and safety and wound up joining the team’s practice squad a day after the team cut him loose in their final buzzsaw rush to a 53 man roster. He’s remained there all year, quietly, awaiting an opportunity.

Cooper doesn’t have any NFL regular season stats to his name just yet, but that ought to change against the Buccaneers. The Falcons have even less to play for than usual, given that they succeeded in saving their head coach’s job, and getting a good look at a player like Cooper who could help out as depth next year feels like an important opportunity. He’ll be just 26 years old, has shown good physicality in his preseason stints with the Falcons and other teams, and will be an affordable re-signing given that he’s an exclusive rights free agent.

For all the talk of the team not being in cap hell—and to their credit, they’ve already freed up $12 million with restructures—they’re going to need to fill the back end of the roster with affordable players if they’re going to make any noise at all in free agency. Let’s see whether Cooper can be one of those or not.