If they’re going to seek a veteran replacement, there’s some good news for them: Unlike most years, there are legitimate NFL starters at safety who are still available in Week One.
Eric Reid will be the first name who comes to mind for many: Reid started 12 games at safety for the 49ers last season, and he did it in a defense not unlike the one the Falcons run, as 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh spent time on the Seahawks’ staff when Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator. Reid is currently bringing a suit against the NFL, claiming that the owners are colluding against him to keep him out of the league because he kneeled during the national anthem. If Falcons owner Arthur Blank wants to demonstrate that the owners aren’t colluding against Reid, he could tell his football guys to bring Reid on board.
Also available is Tyvon Branch, who started nine games at safety for the Cardinals last season. There’s been little news of any teams showing interest in the 31-year-old Branch, but the Falcons could make sense.
Quinn also coached Earl Thomas in Seattle, and would surely love to coach him again. There’s been talk that Thomas, who isn’t happy with his contract, could be available in a trade. But that seems like a long shot.
Losing Neal wasn’t ideal, but the Falcons may be able to replace him, more effectively than teams can usually replace an injured starter in Week One.