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Keanu Neal signing with Buccaneers, will return to playing safety

Keanu Neal is back to playing safety and he's back in the NFC South.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are signing Neal, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday. The team later announced the signing, along with the re-signing of backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Gabbert, a former first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, has been with the Bucs since 2019 and re-joins a QB room that also includes Tom Brady and Kyle Trask.

Neal, who played five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons at safety, played last year with the Dallas Cowboys and converted to playing linebacker in defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's scheme.

Now, Neal is moving on from Quinn, who was also his head coach in Atlanta, and heading back to the NFC South to play for the Bucs.

Plagued by injuries last season, the Buccaneers' defensive backfield now has plenty of depth. Neal will join the recently signed Logan Ryan and Antoine Winfield Jr. at safety with Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting at the corner spots.

Neal, 26, was a first-round pick of the Falcons back in 2016 and was immediately thrust into the starting lineup. He produced back-to-back 100-tackle seasons and earned a 2017 Pro Bowl selection. Injuries held him to just four games over the next two seasons and 2020 was his last in Atlanta.

In 2021, Neal rejoined Quinn in Dallas and transferred to linebacker, where he played in 14 games with five starts and tallied 72 tackles. It wasn't the greatest fit, though, as evidenced by his 35.9 Pro Football Focus overall grade.

So now, Neal's reverting back to safety with a team he knows well.

The Bucs have themselves another veteran and another top-tier defender.

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