The Buccaneers found their new strong safety, as they reportedly agreed to terms with former Seattle Seahawks safety Ryan Neal, per Jordan Schultz of theScore.
Former #Seahawks safety Ryan Neal has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the #Bucs, source tells @theScore.— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) April 4, 2023
Legitimate starting caliber player who put together very solid tape in Seattle last season. Only 27 years old.
It will fly under the radar in national circles but this move is huge for Tampa, as Neal broke out and graded as a top 5 safety by Pro Football Focus in 2022 while filling in for the injured Jamal Adams most of the season. He totaled 66 tackles, 8 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble, and 1 sack in 14 games (10 starts).
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll spoke glowingly about Neal back in November when the team was riding a hot streak.
““The position that [Neal] is in and the stuff that we are asking the safeties to do is something that I have been really excited about for some time. He’s been one of the guys that has taken advantage of it,” Carroll said. “He’s a really good all-around ball player. He can play the run, he can play the pass, he pursues well, he hits well, and he can make plays on the ball. He has all of the skills that can take advantage of the opportunities that he’s placed in. He is pressuring well, and all of that. He’s doing a really good job.”
Just 27 years old, Neal will play opposite Antoine Winfield Jr. to form a very strong safety duo. It was a necessary move after the team let a trio of veterans — Mike Edwards, Logan Ryan, and Keanu Neal — go unsigned in free agency’s early days. While the latter two remain on the market, Edwards decided to move on and sign with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Bucs have done an excellent job with safety development over the last few years, so it’s a good spot for Neal to continue his growth and show that his elite year was no fluke. He was highly valued for his versatility in Seattle, lining up all over from the slot to the box to back deep. That assuredly appealed to Todd Bowles, who loves players who can wear several hats.
New #Bucs Safety Ryan Neal was a do at it all DB aligning at multiple spots.He totaled 330 snaps in the box, 227 at free safety & 102 in the slot.He finished with 66 tackles a sack, an INT & 6 PBU’s & also plays ST. Neal was PFF’s top safety in 2022. pic.twitter.com/JMOR6PhuNB— JC Allen (@JCAllenNFL) April 4, 2023
Since it’s just a one-year deal and Bowles likes to deploy three-safety looks, the Bucs will probably keep safety high on their draft priority list, but Neal will at least keep a rookie from having to shoulder a large number of snaps from the get-go.