The Philadelphia Eagles could be looking at another notable name.
As the Eagles continue to look for depth at the linebacker and safety positions, they may be looking at the perfect player. According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Eagles hosted linebacker/safety Keanu Neal for a visit on Thursday, March 23.
“The Eagles hosted free agent S/LB Keanu Neal on a visit,” said Yates.
Why the Eagles Are Interested in Keanu Neal
The 27-year-old Neal has experience playing at both positions and has played for a number of different NFC teams over the years. The former Pro Bowler spent the 2022 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, starting eight of his 17 appearances while recording 63 tackles, one interception, four pass breakups and five quarterback hits.
Neal technically played the safety position last year with the Buccaneers, but he mostly played in the box, as Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia notes.
“Neal last season ranked as the No. 70 safety in the NFL out of 88, according to ProFootballFocus,” said Zangaro. “While Neal was listed as a safety, the majority of his snaps came in the box. He’s really a hybrid player.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Neal played 233 snaps in the box, 172 snaps at free safety and 98 snaps in the slot last season. To illustrate just how versatile Neal is, he played 478 snaps in the box as a linebacker while he played for the Dallas Cowboys during the 2021 season.
It’s no secret that the Eagles are suddenly lacking at the safety and linebacker positions. Following the departures of top safeties C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps in free agency, Philadelphia’s top options at safety are now Reed Blankenship, K’Von Wallace and free agent signee Justin Evans.
As far as linebackers are concerned, the Eagles have already lost T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White through free agency. That means Philadelphia would likely start Nakobe Dean — who appeared in just 34 defensive snaps as a rookie in 2022 — and free agent signee Nicholas Morrow with their current group if they started the season today.
Keanu Neal Would Be Bargain Signing for Eagles
Bringing in a low-cost, high-ceiling versatile veteran such as Neal could be the perfect signing to somewhat offset the major departures the team has suffered this season, as Zangaro notes.
“There are safeties and linebackers with bigger names still available on the open market (guys who might help the Eagles more) but it makes some sense to kick the tires on a veteran who won’t cost much as a stopgap,” says Zangaro. “The Eagles have gone after a lot of low-risk, high-reward players this offseason and Neal could be another one.”
Across seven seasons, Neal has posted over 100 tackles on three different occasions and has started 61 of his 80 career appearances. In addition to stints with the Buccaneers and Cowboys, Neal initially began his career as a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons, spending five seasons with his initial franchise.
Neal played under a $1.1 million base salary during the 2022 season. According to OverTheCap, Neal’s contract valuation (based upon his 2022 performance) is $1.4 million. If Neal were to sign with the Eagles, expect the base salary to be around that range with incentives to push it into the several million range.