The Detroit Lions lost out one of their top options in John Johnson, but it might not take them long to find a suitable replacement on the open market.
This time, it’s another young option the Lions could be interested in, and the target is reportedly Keanu Neal of the Atlanta Falcons. Neal was recently released from the Falcons roster, and has joined free agency. He’s got a major market so far.
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The news was first revealed by ESPN’s Josina Anderson, who reported that Detroit was one team showing interest in Neal. The others? A packed market including the Cowboys, Jets, Panthers, Colts and division rival Vikings.
Neal’s market is jam-packed, but the Lions could offer him the chance to come to a new team and get a new start. If Neal came into the mix, he would join players like Tracy Walker and Will Harris as it relates to being depth at safety for the team.
Keanu Neal Stats
Neal is a young option for teams that perhaps has fallen through the cracks. At 25, he is one of the younger safeties that will hit the market after being cut from the roster in Atlanta. In his career, Neal has only put up 2 interceptions and 338 tackles, which might be low production to some but decent production for a team like Detroit that could use it out of the defensive backfield. He cracked the Pro Bowl in 2017. Neal could be the perfect buy low option for the team, but plenty of others could be interested for this reason.
The biggest concern with signing Neal is his injury history. In 2018, Neal tore his ACL and in 2019, he followed that up with an Achilles injury. Knowing this, he’s a bit of damaged goods, but he bounced back with 14 starts in 2020 and proved his durability with 100 tackles. If a team believes he is over those issues, it could make sense for them to sign him to the roster.
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Safety a Major Lions Defensive Needs
The Lions have needs not only in the trenches but on the back end of their defense as well. Detroit could use a safety like Neal for depth’s sake, but could also look to add a cornerback to the mix as well to help out their young players in finding a footing. Aside from Williams, the team could also look to make more additions at linebacker and along the defensive line, although bringing back Romeo Okwara was a great start for Detroit as it relates to that.
With young players like Tracy Walker and Will Harris at safety, the team could look to Neal to perhaps add a veteran playmaker to the group that still has plenty of tread left on the tires. Making a move like this could improve the defense in a major way.