The Falcons are really, truly starting over at the safety position.
Atlanta had already cut Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal is expected to test free agency, and the latest report from Ian Rapoport suggests that Damontae Kazee will join him. I had thought Atlanta might prioritize bringing him back given their dearth of safety options and his skill, but a hard reset is apparently in the cards under Dean Pees, and the Falcons will go into free agency with only Jaylinn Hawkins and T.J. Green under contract.
#Falcons starting S Damontae Kazee is not expected to re-sign with the team this offseason, source said. The three-year starter tore his Achilles this season, but recently received a from Dr. Robert Anderson and will be cleared by training camp. pic.twitter.com/74nhkMWpPX— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2021
Kazee will probably not have much problem finding work elsewhere, even in a crowded free agent safety market. He was a 29 game starter in 2018 and 2019, piling up a combined 10 interceptions and 156 tackles while splitting time between free safety and strong safety. A sound tackler and a ballhawk by nature, Kazee will offer his new team positional versatility (he came into the league with experience at cornerback) and starter’s upside heading into his age 28 season. The chief question for him will be health, as he’s coming off an Achilles injury that robbed him of all but four games of his 2020 season, but if he’s good to go he’ll be at worst a valuable third safety for a team. There are so many free agents in the market in part because there are so many teams in need of a safety, after all.
Atlanta’s one of them, but the Falcons apparently didn’t think Kazee was a good bet to be part of their plans. It’s unclear how the team intends to re-build safety, but given Terry Fontenot’s avowed desire to go into the draft without needing to reach for needs, chances are good they’ll sign at least two veteran free agents who can compete to start, with Hawkins mixing in if they don’t go further than that. As I already mentioned, this is a crowded market and a year where the cap is significantly depressed, so the Falcons may be able to get bargains on players they like.
There are also plenty of interesting Day 2 safety options in April if Atlanta wants to add some long-term upside to the position group, and they should want to do that. The team’s focus is going to be on contending and contending in a way that doesn’t hurt them financially beyond this year, so snagging a high-upside safety in Rounds 2 or 3 just makes sense.
We wish Kazee well in his recovery and with his next team, and now we wait to see what’s in store for the safety group in Atlanta.