The Falcons 2016 draft class will go down as on of the best draft classes in Atlanta Falcons’ franchise history.
The question no one wants to ask is will they be able to keep this group together? This class featured three Pro Bowlers in SS Keanu Neal, MLB Deion Jones, and TE Austin Hooper. The Atlanta Falcons were also able to find another starter at linebacker with De’Vondre Campbell and a decent depth piece at guard in sixth round pick Wes Schweitzer.
Right now the team is focused on the 2019 NFL Draft and working out a long term deal with DT Grady Jarrett. The Falcons need to give extensions to the 2016 class before the season starts. This is going to be a tall task as some of these guys are set to receive massive paydays and given the teams cap situation, they will not be able to keep everyone.
In the first round of the 2016 draft, the Falcons selected SS Keanu Neal out of the University of Florida. He was drafted to be an enforcer for this defense and he has lived up to his potential and given the fans a lot more than we ever anticipated. Keanu missed all of last season with a torn ACL but had a phenomenal rookie year in 2016 and made the Pro Bowl in 2017. The Falcons need to extend Neal because he has been so crucial for the Falcons’ defense.
Since 2012 the defense has struggled covering Tight Ends but that problem is neutralized when Keanu is on the field. So far in his career Neal has played in 31 career games with 220 tackles, 154 solo, 8 forced fumbles, and an interception. He also holds the NFL record for most forced fumbles by a safety in their first two seasons. Another positive for Neal is he will be 24 years old this up coming season.
It is going to be hard to predict his contract as he does not have a lot of interceptions compared to the other top safety’s around the league but has a lot of forced fumbles. A good starting point is comparing former Seahawks SS Kam Chancellor‘s most recent contract which is $36 million over three years averaging $12 million a year. For Keanu the contract will likely be $65-$70 million over five years.