American Football

New unrestricted free-agent safety could help fill Browns backup need

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NFL: Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Neal’s restricted free agent tender was withdrawn making him an unrestricted free agent

The NFL has figured out a way to be an unrelenting league when it comes to grabbing the attention of fans. While the season doesn’t start until September, the news cycle in the NFL takes a couple of week break after the Super Bowl and then again in the summer. Besides that, it is all NFL all the time.

NFL free agency has been busy for the Cleveland Browns but seems to be slowing down and, perhaps, coming to a halt until after April’s NFL draft. After the draft, the team will have a better idea if they still have safety and defensive line needs that they are reportedly looking to fill at this point.

With the strange ways things happen in the NFL, there is a new unrestricted free agent on the last day of March. Instead of a veteran being released, this new free agent had his restricted tender offer withdrawn:

Ryan Neal may not be a known name to many fans but he performed well last year for the Seattle Seahawks when thrown into a starter’s role for 10 games. On top of the stats noted above, Neal had a sack, a forced fumble, a QB hit and four tackles for loss.

According to Pro Football Focus, Neal played all over the field last year. While 362 snaps came at strong safety, 236 were at free safety and 118 were as a slot cornerback. PFF graded him relatively high for the year with an 82 overall grade and 84.4 grade in coverage.

The obvious question is what led Seattle to withdraw their tender?

Primarily, it looks like the Seahawks are struggling with cap space at this point in the offseason. Over the Cap has them with just over $4 million in space but negative “effective space” when taking into account the upcoming NFL draft class. Seattle also signed S Julian Love this offseason to play alongside Jamal Adams as the team’s starters leaving little room for Neal.

Cleveland may not be Neal’s first choice either given the presence of Juan Thornhill and Grant Delpit but the Browns have cap space still and could be creative to get Neal on the field. As a strong safety, Neal is a good athlete with a 4.47 40-yard dash and good explosive scores coming out of college.

GM Andrew Berry should at least place a call as many teams have already filled their needs at the position but the Browns could use another safety.

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