On Thursday the Atlanta Falcons announced the signing of four exclusive rights free agents, including defensive tackle Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Pro Bowl placekicker Younghoe Koo, not to mention wide receiver Christian Blake and cornerback Tyler Hall. The Falcons also made news over a player they will not be re-signing, apparently.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Falcons are planning to move on from Damontae Kazee.
#Falcons starting S Damontae Kazee is not expected to re-sign with the team this offseason, source said. The three-year starter tore his Achilles this season, but recently received a 👍🏽 from Dr. Robert Anderson and will be cleared by training camp. pic.twitter.com/74nhkMWpPX
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2021
As noted by Rapoport, Kazee is coming off an Achilles injury that kept him from playing all but four games of the 2020 season.
Damontae Kazee: Productive Starter
But before getting hurt the former 2017 fifth-round draft pick (San Diego State) was highly productive. Though he started just one game during his rookie year, he became a fixture—at either free or strong safety—after that.
Over the course of 52 games (34 starts) he contributed 199 tackles (137 solo), with 10 interceptions, 13 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and three tackles for loss. He was especially impactful in 2018, when he recorded 82 tackles and had seven interceptions plus 10 passes defensed.
Kazee will officially become an unrestricted free agent on the afternoon of March 17th, when the 2021 league year begins.
Atlanta’s Safety Room Will Have a New Look in 2021
In light of other recent moves on the part of the Falcons, it’s clear that Atlanta will be starting over at safety this season.
Last month the Falcons decided to move on from veteran safety Ricardo Allen, who spent seven years with the team. The former fifth-round pick started 76 games during that time frame, accumulating 340 total tackles and 11 interceptions.
Then earlier this week, the Falcons decided to eschew using the franchise tag on Keanu Neal, which will allow the former first-round pick (No. 17 overall, 2016) to hit the open market. Last year, Neal produced 100 total tackles (76 solo), with one interception, two passes defensed, nine tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and one fumble recovery.
Who’s Left at Safety?
That leaves Jaylinn Hawkins and T.J. Green as the only safeties currently under contract for 2021.
Hawkins—6-foot-1, 200 pounds—was a rookie in 2020 and contributed 13 tackles (eight solo) and a half a sack over the course of a dozen games. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2020 Draft out of the University of California.
For his part, Green signed a one-year futures contract back in January, though he appeared in just one game for Atlanta last year after joining the Falcons via the practice squad.
Green is a former second-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2016 (No. 57 overall), but has played little since he started seven games for the Colts in 2017. Between then and his move to Atlanta he has also spent time with the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers.
Over the course of his career Green has played in 34 games with 11 starts, responsible for 90 tackles (65 solo), along with five tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and three passes defensed.
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