When Dan Quinn was asked about his team’s needs, he gave a surprising answer that we probably didn’t spend enough time discussing at that moment.
It’s not at all a surprise that defensive end and cornerback are on the list, given that the Falcons are fairly light on proven defensive ends and could use more talent at corner after letting both Brian Poole and Robert Alford go. Strong safety doesn’t seem like it belongs in the same league, however.
Dan Quinn said adding depth at strong safety, defensive end and cornerback is a focus for them right now. #Falcons— Kelsey Conway (@FalconsKelsey) March 26, 2019
On first blush, the situation at free safety would seem to be the more dire one, with Ricardo Allen coming back from an always-difficult Achilles tear and Damontae Kazee at least being talked about as an option at cornerback for a team without Brian Poole and Robert Alford. If Allen isn’t 100% by the start of the season and Kazee is tied up elsewhere, the Falcons would have a massive need at free safety, but Quinn has focused on strong safety even so.
Even if Neal is banged up heading into the year, the Falcons have a stellar contingency plan in Sharrod Neasman, who returned to the team that scooped up him as a UDFA and put together a fine series of games at the end of the 2018 season. He would seem to be a strong insurance policy for Neal, or about as strong as you could reasonably expect to have around.
That begs a pretty simple question: Why strong safety?
There are three possibilities here, which I’ll touch on briefly:
· Neal is hurt and the team is hedging on his short-term future by suggesting that they will invest in help;
· They’re interested in the market and/or draft class, both of which have genuine talent that would help set the Falcons up with a potential long-term reserve option, especially if injury continues to be an issue for Neal;
· They’re not big believers in Neasman, which would be odd in light of last year’s performance, or they don’t think he’ll be around after 2019
I don’t know which of these is true, and indeed, we’re not absolutely certain Kazee is going to move over to cornerback, which would at least solve the mystery of why free safety doesn’t appear to be a priority for Atlanta. But the team’s interest indicates that their current configuration at strong safety worries them, and the simplest explanation is that they’re worried about their recuperating star. If that’s the case, adding a quality reserve with some starter’s upside to the mix would be a sensible move, and would help protect the Falcons if one or both of their starters aren’t ready, especially if Neasman is part of the mix.
If that’s not the case, it’s worth wondering what implications that may have for the safety position in Atlanta, and for Neasman in particular. It’s some low level intrigue for an offseason I hope doesn’t have a lot of it.