FRISCO - We know that new Dallas Cowboys defensive coaches Dan Quinn and Joe Whitt Jr. are already putting their stamp on how this team will do business in 2021.
And we've always thought circling back to their previous employer, the Atlanta Falcons, is part of that stamp.
The first bit of proof: Dallas has agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with free agent Keanu Neal, a source suggesting to us that he might be a "hybrid'' player, as he's played safety in his career but could also fit as a linebacker.
On Friday evening that the NFL free agent was "deciding between'' the Cowboys and the New York Jets. But he's decided to sign on with Dan Quinn and Joe Whitt.
With Xavier Woods slated to become a free agent and only Donovan Wilson and Darian Thompson as playable names on the current depth chart, the Cowboys were looking for help at safety.
And probably still are, as maybe Damontae Kazee or Malik Hooker would as well.
Neal was a 2016 first-round pick of the Falcons - when Quinn was their head coach. In 2017 he earned Pro Bowl honors. Neal started 14 games last year, with Whitt as his position coach.
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Neal is 6-1, 216 and a physical player who obviously fits in the defense Quinn will run here. The 25-year-old tore his ACL in 2018 and his Achilles’ in 2019, probably lessening his effectiveness. Also notable: Dallas, in his draft, did not view him as a first-round talent, as the Falcons obviously did.
Kazee, 27, is a former fifth-round pick who sustained a season-ending Achilles injury in early October of the 2020 season. During his four seasons with the Falcons, Kazee - smallish at 5-11, 175 - totaled 199 tackles, 10 interceptions and five forced fumbles.
There are a couple of running themes here. One is about getting players who have dealt with injuries - and are therefore affordable. Safety Malik Hooker, who Dallas has always liked, joins Neal and Kazee in that department .. and will join Kazee in the category of being a visitor to The Star.) Also in play? Connections, There are other Quinn/Whitt connected names worth mentioning for DB help in free agency. But the Neal-Dallas link has always been high on the list of the ones we believe are worth our attention.
And now they have a deal.
CONTINUE READING: NFL Free Agency Tracker - Cowboys Sign 6-8 Tackle