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Keanu Neal Switching Back to Safety; Possible Jayron Kearse Replacement?

After one season playing linebacker with the , former safety Keanu Neal wants to get back to what he does best. Currently a , could Neal’s return to safety actually lead to him replacing in Dallas?

The 17th overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Neal spent five years in Atlanta playing for current Cowboys . He quickly rewarded the Falcons’ faith with a strong year and then making the Pro Bowl in his second season

Unfortunately, Keanu’s next two years ended quickly due to . He suffered a torn ACL in the opener and then an Achilles tear in Week 3 on 2019. Neal was able to bounce back in 2020, playing 15 games and posting comparable numbers to his Pro Bowl season.

An unrestricted free agent in 2021, Neal followed Quinn to Dallas and converted to linebacker. He started five games at random points throughout the season, splitting playing time with and seeing his role vary depending on where was deployed that week.

Now with his one-year deal expired, Neal is back on the free agent market and reportedly wanting to return to the safety position.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter: “#Cowboys free agent and former 1st round pick Keanu Neal, who played linebacker for Dan Quinn last year, source said, is switching back to his old safety spot as he looks to reestablish himself as one of the top players at his position when he lands with his new team. / Twitter”

Cowboys free agent and former 1st round pick Keanu Neal, who played linebacker for Dan Quinn last year, source said, is switching back to his old safety spot as he looks to reestablish himself as one of the top players at his position when he lands with his new team.

The Cowboys currently have a big hole at safety. Jayron Kearse had a breakout year in 2021 and has gone into free agency with a lot of leverage. With Dallas pinching pennies this , Kearse’s demands have clearly not led to a renewed relationship at this time.

If Neal’s going back to safety then he could play a similar role to what Kearse did last year. Both are big-bodied safeties who can thrive when playing closer to the line of scrimmage. And for the last two years, Keanu’s stayed healthy and hopefully put those 2018-2019 issues behind him.

While the Cowboys have re-signed and still have as a candidate, expecting either to duplicate Jayron’s production is dangerous and would leave the position very thin. Getting Neal back would add another competitor to the mix and, if nothing else, help make make safety deeper next year.

With Dan Quinn staying in Dallas for at least 2022, his six-year relationship with Keanu Neal could be a big factor here. But does Quinn agree with Neal’s desire to switch back to safety? That matters even more.

Again, Dallas’ miserly approach to free agency is another big issue. But while Jayron Kearse is riding high and can reasonably expect a big payday this offseason, Neal is still trying to reestablish his worth and should be a relative bargain.

We don’t know if Keanu Neal has any desire to return to the Cowboys after last year. But with Quinn still around and a need at his desired position, there’s a reasonable argument that Dallas could present him with an attractive opportunity in 2022.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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