FRISCO, Texas – In a league noted for its unpredictability, some things can still be seen coming.
From the moment the Cowboys hired Dan Quinn to be their new defensive coordinator, it made sense to think he might bring Keanu Neal to join him in Dallas. That's exactly what happened on Saturday, as the Cowboys agreed to terms with the four-year veteran on a one-year, $5 million contract.
Neal comes to the Cowboys from the Atlanta Falcons, where he was a first-round pick and a five-year starter under Quinn – who drafted him No. 17 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, the second year of his tenure as the Falcons' head coach.
The connection was too obvious to ignore. Neal has played the entirety of his NFL career under Quinn, and the Cowboys also have need of his services. With Xavier Woods likely leaving in free agency, Donovan Wilson is the only regular starter on the roster – not to mention the fact that the Cowboys haven't gotten much production from the safety position in quite some time.
That said, perhaps there's to be some discussion about where Neal eventually plays. Neal spent his entire Falcons career at safety, but his 338 career tackles and three seasons with 100-plus tackles suggest he can handle that responsibility quite well. In 2020, he finished with 100 tackles, nine tackles for loss and an interception.
The main question with Neal will be durability. He broke onto the scene as a rookie starter for the Atlanta team that reached Super Bowl LI, and he was named to the Pro Bowl in his second season.
Injuries got in the way for a full two years, though. He tore his ACL in the season opener of the 2018 season, and he tore his Achilles during Week 3 of 2019. He did rebound to play 15 games last year, however, missing just one week with a hamstring injury.
Neal is easily the most experienced safety on the Cowboys' roster at this point, as he'll join with Donovan Wilson and Darian Thompson as the team's primary trio for the time being.