The Jacksonville Jaguars brought in Chris Ash to coach their secondary, and if they want the former Texas defensive coordinator to thrive in his new post, they need to give him help and add a few playmakers this offseason. Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal, who is scheduled to become a free agent, should be on the Jaguars’ radar.
A first-round selection in 2016, Neal made the Pro Bowl in 2017 and looked like a rising star. However, injuries limited to four games the following two years and he hasn’t had the same kind of success he enjoyed in his sophomore campaign. After registering eight forced fumbles in his first two seasons, he hasn’t had any in the last three, but that may be due to his lack of playing time.
Last season, Neal registered 100 total tackles (nine for a loss), two pass deflections, and one interception. He earned a Pro Football Focus 68.2 overall grade and allowed just one touchdown in pass coverage. He was also number 70 in PPF’s 2021 Top 100 free agent list.
Why should the Jacksonville Jaguars sign Keanu Neal?
Had Neal not dealt with injuries in back-to-back seasons, he might’ve become one of the best safeties in the NFL. He seemed healthy last season, but there will still be concerns about his injury history in free agency. At this point, it’s a coin flip. He could play at a Pro Bowl level once again or spend time in the training room, so teams may feel more comfortable offering him a one-year deal.
Jarrod Wilson should start at one safety spot for the Jaguars in 2021, but they could benefit from signing Neal. Daniel Thomas started two games in his rookie year and showed flashes of talent. This Jacksonville team could have them both compete for the starting job and look for ways to involve both in the defense.
The ‘Jags’ can’t neglect their safety room and need to give it a boost, and signing Neal could be a low-risk, high-reward move in the long run.