The opening few weeks of Free Agency have been a rollercoaster. But while cash is splashed across the league, Howie Roseman has remained meticulous with his decisions. The Eagles GM has spent the month of March sifting through the Bargain Bin looking for a steal and there’s one more player who just might fit that mold – Ryan Neal.
Who is Ryan Neal?
Ryan Neal is a 27-year-old Safety out of Southern Illinois who has spent the past few years with the Seattle Seahawks. His name might be familiar to the more astute Eagles fan, and we’ll touch back on that shortly.
What makes Neal an interesting candidate is that he’s largely been a role/special teams player up to this point, with one exception. He was thrust into a starting role in 2022 when Jamal Adams went down with injury and really proved his worth. He spent time at free safety as well as in the nickel, proving his worth as a down-and-dirty run player and as someone who can excel in coverage. In fact, he was given an 84.4 coverage grade by PFF last year in the 362 snaps that he played.
He’s not just a PFF darling, however. He’s a menace at the catch-point (8 passes defensed in 2022 which ranked 16th out of 95 safeties) and is a more than competent athlete, having posted a 4.47 40-yard dash along with very good agility scores (4.29 shuttle & 37.5″ vertical).
So, why didn’t the Seahawks bring him back?
Originally, Neal was given a tender, giving the team first right of refusal and the ability to match any offer made by another team. Rescinding that tender allows him to walk into the free agency market and sign wherever he pleases.
The Seahawks have next to no cap space and have a huge chunk of money already tied up at Safety. In fact, between Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs, there’s $32M being spent. The team cannot really afford to pay Neal more than league-minimum and it’s safe to say he deserves more.
Safety is a top-heavy position in Seattle and while depth is optimal, they can get that from rookies, UDFA’s, and those who play on a league minimum. It’s an unfortunate necessity but one that may play into the hands of the Eagles.
Why would the Eagles be interested?
I mentioned that the cogs may have been turning for Eagles fans and there’s a reason for that. If you cast your minds back to 2018, Neal actually caught on with the Philadelphia Eagles as a UDFA. He was unable to make the final roster and took his talents to Atlanta, but while a lot has changed since then, Howie Roseman is still the Head of the Table and obviously liked what he saw in Ryan Neal. Now that he’s just put up a very impressive year, who’s to say he won’t try and rekindle that fire?
Secondly, Neal also worked under Sean Desai during his breakout campaign. Desai was the Assistant Head Coach & Defensive Assistant in Seattle when Neal was breaking out in an explosive fashion. That’s two people in that front office who are familiar with Neal and clearly like what they’ve seen in the past.
As a cheap and cheerful signing, the stars don’t align much better than this. Neal would fill a need for the Eagles and likely compete for a starting role, signing a prove-it contract while he looks to double down on his 2022 form and secure a long-term payday. It’s a win-win for everyone.
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