The Falcons have plenty of time to turn this thus far depressing offseason into a good one, but all the early news has been pretty dispiriting. We know that Austin Hooper and De’Vondre Campbell are hitting the open market, and now one of my favorite Falcons of the last decade is also apparently going to be allowed to walk in the offseason.
That’d be Kemal Ishmael, one of the better 7th round picks in team history and a vital reserve and special teamer since joining up in 2013. Ishmael had been on year-to-year deals for a while now, so this isn’t shocking, but it is disappointing.
Per D-Led, the source here is Ishmael’s agent, which makes it sound pretty definitive. There’s always the chance Ish could be back mid-season if something goes awry, but teams are well aware of his special teams value and Keith Armstrong is in Tampa Bay, which means he’ll probably be snapped up long before then.
Ishmael, who will be 29 in May, was drafted in the 7th round back in 2013 along with the more heralded Zeke Motta. The latter’s career was derailed by injuries, but Ishmael spent seven seasons in Atlanta playing safety, linebacker, and of course serving as a thumping tackler on special teams. He finished his 95 game, 23 start career in Atlanta with 290 combined tackles, 5 picks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 sack, 6 tackles for loss, and 1 defensive touchdown.
In 2019, Ishmael was pressed into action as a starter at safety after spending time dabbling at linebacker, ultimately starting three games. His issues in coverage were evident in that stint, as he allowed opposing receivers to haul in 84% of their targets for over 200 yards and two touchdowns, but he was still stone solid in run support and as a tackler. I doubt he’ll have a lot of trouble finding work for the veteran minimum elsewhere.
We wish him well wherever he lands, and he should be fondly remembered for the work he did in Atlanta, and for being that rare 7th round pick who worked out extremely well.