The safety market is narrowing, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed former Dallas Cowboys safety Keanu Neal on Wednesday according to a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Neal joined the Falcons as the 17th pick in the First Round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Florida. His rookie season was a successful one, playing and starting in 14 games for Atlanta and then starting all three games in the postseason that ended in a loss to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. For his efforts, he made the PFWA All-Rookie Team.
Neal improved in the 2017 season, starting all 16 games, making 116 combined tackles and two fumble recoveries. He started in both playoff games and made 14 tackles before the Falcons’ season ended in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Divisional Round. He made his first Pro Bowl, filling in for Eagles safety Malcom Jenkins who played in the Super Bowl.
He dealt with season-ending injuries the next two seasons, tearing his ACL in 2018 and suffering a torn Achilles tendon in 2019. These injuries limited him to just four games over those two seasons.
Neal made a return to the Falcons in 2020 and played 15 games, starting 14. He made 100 combined tackles and nine tackles for loss in a disappointing season for the Falcons, as they finished 4-12 and last in the NFC South.
He signed a $5 million contract with the Cowboys in the 2021 season, playing mainly in the linebacker position, rather than safety. Neal played in 14 games and started five games last season for the Cowboys, making 72 combined tackles and four tackles for loss.
Now with the Buccaneers, Neal will move back to the safety role under new head coach Todd Bowles.
Tampa Bay travels to Heinz Field to take on the Steelers this season. It looks to be a big matchup, with Tom Brady returning from brief retirement and to Pittsburgh for what will be his final match in the city.
The Steelers still do not have a starting strong safety despite general manager Kevin Colbert saying he wanted to address the position before the draft. Tyrann Mathieu remains the team’s top external option, while incumbent starter Terrell Edmunds also remains un-signed as a free agent.