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Falcons sign OL John Wetzel and S Jamal Carter, place Keanu Neal on IR

At least for now, the Falcons are staying in-house at safety after all.

Atlanta Falcons v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Falcons worked out T.J. McDonald and George Iloka earlier today, sparking hope that they’d be going outside the organization to add a solid veteran safety to the mix with Keanu Neal hitting injured reserve. At least for the moment, it appears neither one is actually going to join the Falcons.

The team made a flurry of official moves that we knew were coming or had been previously reported, including waiving Matt Wile at punter, putting Neal on IR, and re-adding veteran offensive lineman John Wetzel, the versatile final man in the mix along the line.

Critically, they also chose to promote from within, adding former Broncos hybrid safety and linebacker Jamal Carter to the active roster from the practice squad. Tight end Carson Meier re-joined the practice squad in a corresponding move.

You’re familiar with Wetzel and you know why Neal hit the shelf and Wile was let go, so let’s focus on the Carter move. He was a core special teamer for Denver in 2017 and carved out a small role as a reserve on defense for the Broncos that year, and was in line for the third safety gig in 2018. Unfortunately for him, he got hurt and missed the entire year, and he was no longer in Denver’s plans by the time he got back.

The Falcons swooped in and added him to the practice squad with an eye on this scenario, in all likelihood. Carter has prototype size and physicality for the position but is not particularly fast, making him better suited for a box safety role in the NFL. His promotion tells you that Kemal Ishmael and Sharrod Neasman are going to have roles to play, while Carter will probably soak up some of their special teams snaps to help keep them fresh. I’d expect Ishmael to get the majority of snaps at strong safety with Neasman mixing in, with the Falcons probably making use of Ish’s physicality and trying to mask some of his challenges in coverage.

Ideally, the Falcons would’ve added another veteran safety to the mix in case Ishmael or Neasman weren’t the solutions, but I suppose they could still go that route in a week or two if those options falter. The only problem is that if either or both aren’t thriving against the Titans and Texans and the Falcons lose those games, it’ll probably be too late to add anyone who can make a meaningful impact. We’ll hope Carter plays well on special teams, at least.