Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn announced Monday that Neal will play linebacker with the Cowboys, Zach Klein of WSB TV reports. Neal is already listed as a linebacker on Dallas' official depth chart, confirming that he has a new primary position. The switch is a considerable blow to Neal's fantasy value in IDP formats, given the difference in positional scarcity between safeties and linebackers capable of racking up high tackle totals. It's possible that Neal's significant injury history, including a torn ACL in 2018 and a torn Achilles in 2019, have deprived him of the speed necessary to excel in the secondary.
The Cowboys intend to deploy Neal at both safety and linebacker, Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Neal's decision to sign a one-year, $5 million deal with the Cowboys allows him to reunite with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. During their time together in Atlanta, Quinn occasionally utilized Neal in specialized packages, but it looks like the 25-year-old will see more consistent action at weak-side linebacker in Dallas. A positional switch away from safety would significantly lessen Neal's value in IDP formats, especially in dynasty leagues. On the other hand, Neal's value could get a slight bump if the Cowboys officially keep him at safety while simply deploying him at LB with some regularity.
Neal is expected to move to weakside linebacker with the Cowboys, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. The hard-hitting former safety recently signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Cowboys, joining a team that already has a pair of three-down linebackers in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch (ankle). It's an odd fit at first glance, but there are a few different ways the Cowboys can make it work, including using Smith as a part-time edge rusher. Neal reached 100 tackles in each of his three healthy seasons with the Falcons, so it's hard to imagine a position switch benefiting his IDP value in the long run, though he could get a short-term boost if he adds dual-position eligibility.
Neal signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Cowboys on Saturday, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports. The move means Neal reunites with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The Cowboys are evidently still in the market for additional help at safety, though the 25-year-old will certainly be a welcome boost. The 2016 first-round pick by the Falcons rebounded from consecutive season-ending neck injuries to record 100 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception in 15 games last season.
Neal, who registered seven tackles (four solo) during Sunday's 44-27 loss to the Buccaneers, closed out the 2020 campaign with 100 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two pass deflections, a fumble recovery, an interception and a sack over 15 games. Having suffered a torn ACL in September 2018 and subsequently a torn Achilles in September 2019, Neal had missed 28 of the Falcons' past 32 games entering this season. The 25-year-old enjoyed better fortune with just one game absence during 2020, sitting out a Week 4 loss to the Packers because of a hamstring injury. He posted 100-plus tackles for the third time in five pro campaigns in 2020, proving once again that he is a defensive force when capable of staying on the field. Having just played out the fifth-year option from his rookie contract, Neal is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|1||09/09||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers||27|
|2||09/19||@Los Angeles Chargers||24|
|5||10/10||New York Giants||29|
|6||10/17||@New England Patriots||1|
|11||11/21||@Kansas City Chiefs||15|
|12||11/25||Las Vegas Raiders||2|
|13||12/02||@New Orleans Saints||31|
|14||12/12||@Washington Football Team||17|
|15||12/19||@New York Giants||29|
|16||12/26||Washington Football Team||17|