If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu, it’s because it was less than a week ago that the Dallas Cowboys signed former Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal to a one-year contract. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network/NFL.com, on Thursday the Cowboys reportedly agreed to terms with another former Falcons safety, this time unrestricted free agent Damontae Kazee, 27, who played the first four years of his NFL career in Atlanta. The signing comes one day after Kazee visited Dallas, only to move on to a visit with the Detroit Lions before coming back and doing a deal with the Cowboys.
According to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, an “encouraging medical evaluation” was a catalyst for the deal coming together.
Kazee suffered a torn Achilles tendon in Week 4 of last season and is still working his way back from the injury.
Neal and Kazee are both reunited with former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who is now serving as the defensive coordinator in Dallas. The signing also reunites Kazee (and Neal) with secondary coach/defensive pass game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr., who held the same title in Atlanta. Quinn and Whitt hope that Kazee can bring some of the big play magic he provided for the Falcons.
As noted by the aforementioned Gehlken, Kazee led the NFL in interceptions (with 10) in the two-year period encompassing 2018 and 2019. That’s one more than provided by the entire Cowboys secondary during that same time frame.
And with Kazee expected to hold down the free safety spot, Neal is expected to make a position change and play at weakside linebacker, or perhaps a hybrid linebacker/safety role.
Kazee’s Career with the Falcons
Damontae Kazee joined the Falcons in 2017 as a fifth-round pick out of San Diego State. Over the course of 52 games and 34 starts he contributed 199 tackles (137 solo), with 13 passes defensed and five forced fumbles. He had his most impactful season in 2018, when he recorded 82 tackles and had seven interceptions, which was tied for the most interceptions in the NFL that year (Xavien Howard, Kyle Fuller).
Yet earlier this month, the Falcons indicated that they would not attempt to sign him to a second contract, embracing a makeover of a secondary that allowed the most passing yards in the NFL last season. That makeover is already underway, with the Falcons having signed former Las Vegas Raiders safety Erik Harris little more than a week ago.
For what it’s worth, the Falcons will get to go against Neal and Kazee later this year, as Atlanta is scheduled to play at Dallas this season, one of what will almost certainly be a 17-game schedule, with the extra opponent expected to be the Jacksonville Jaguars.
OT Matt Gono Has Signed His Tender
In other news from Thursday, restricted free agent offensive tackle Matt Gono reportedly signed his second-round tender, which the Falcons extended ten days ago. Gono will earn a salary of $3.384 million in 2021 and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
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