Does this spell the end of his time in Atlanta?
The Falcons have a lot of rebuilding to do under new general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith. In particular, the defense is going to look dramatically different in 2021. Safety Ricardo Allen has already been let go and it we’ve long speculated that fellow starter Keanu Neal could end up moving on as well.
Well, it looks like the latter is now all but confirmed, as the Falcons are not expected to use the franchise tag on the former first round pick.
The Atlanta Falcons are not expected to franchise tag safety Keanu Neal, per source. Former first-round pick set to hit the open market.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 9, 2021
It was always unlikely that the Falcons would use the franchise tag given the fact that their salary cap situation is pretty tight at the moment. However, the tag can be a good stop-gap to ensure you keep the player around while you continue to work on a long-term deal. After all, this is exactly what the team did with Grady Jarrett just a couple of years ago. There’s still a possibility the team works on keeping him, but this move likely allows Keanu to hit free agency and see what other teams think he’s worth.
With former head coach Dan Quinn now the defensive coordinator in Dallas, one has to think that Neal will go knocking on those doors. Considering the fact that he’ll only be 26 this season, the market for Neal may be better than many are anticipating, which could put him out of reach for any deal in Atlanta.
What are your thoughts on the Falcons not using the tag to keep Keanu in Atlanta in 2021?