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Report: Colts Have ‘Preliminary Interest’ in Falcons Free Agent Safety Keanu Neal

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Chicago Bears v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

According to NFL Insider Josina Anderson, the Indianapolis Colts are among the NFL teams that have preliminary interest in Atlanta Falcons free agent safety Keanu Neal:

Originally a 2016 first round pick of the Falcons out of Florida, the 6’0”, 211 pound safety (32 3/4” arms) is coming off a bounceback season in which he recorded 100 tackles (76 solo), 9 tackles for loss, a sack, an interception, 2 passes defensed, and a fumble recovery during 15 games (14 starts).

Per PFF (subscription), Neal was their 33rd best graded safety with a +68.2 grade overall.

Unfortunately, while a physical presence when he plays, Neal was limited to just 4 combined total starts with a season-ending torn ACL and Achilles in back-to-back seasons in both 2018 and 2019 for the Falcons—meaning there’s some lingering durability concerns.

However, Neal was largely healthy in 2020 and showed what he’s fully capable of on the field for the Falcons. It’s easy to forget that he was also a Pro Bowler earlier in his career during the 2017 season before the injuries.

Neal operates as a traditional in-the-box safety and likely could assume a hybrid safety/linebacker role for the Colts on obvious passing situations—as he’s shown good range on underneath routes operating in Atlanta’s occasional Cover 3 zone defensive scheme.

While the Colts could arguably use more of a ‘rangy’ coverage free safety to allow starter Khari Willis to play closer to the line of scrimmage, Neal could present good free agent value given his youth, obvious talent, physicality, and former first round pedigree.

He would be upgrading the Colts’ third safety position regardless—which currently has both Malik Hooker and Tavon Wilson as free agents—both of whom appear unlikely to return.