Cowboys sign former first-round pick to bolster secondary

The Dallas Cowboys have found their next safety, and it’s a familiar face for Dan Quinn.

Quinn, formerly the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, will have a solid fit for his system as he tries to rework the Cowboys defense in his first season as coordinator.

Keanu Neal was a former first-round pick in Atlanta, selected by the Falcons with the 17th overall choice in 2016. Neal is a former Pro Bowler who has been slowed by injury, and his contract with the Cowboys reflects that.

Per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Neal is signing a one-year, $5 million contract with Jerry Jones’ Cowboys. He was reportedly choosing between the Cowboys and New York Jets but opted to take his talents to JerryWorld.

Keanu Neal’s position flexibility makes him an attractive fit with the Cowboys

Neal is reportedly considering a switch to more of a nickel linebacker hybrid, rather than focusing solely on continuing his career as a safety. His tackling ability and threat via blitz packages make that an intriguing possibility.

While Pro Football Focus isn’t the end-all, be-all statistic it’s often made out to be, Neal was graded rather positively in all facets of his game, with a 74.3 pass-rush grade and a 66.2 coverage grade. This essentially means that however, they choose to use him, they’ll be getting similar production from an above-replacement level player.

Neal made the Pro Bowl in 2017, but ACL and Achilles injuries cut his 2018 and 2019 seasons short. 2020 was a solid comeback for Neal, as he finished with 100 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. Perhaps most importantly, he proved he can stay relatively healthy, playing in 15 games.