Hooker, Kazee scheduled to visit Cowboys, who look to shift Neal to LB

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Todd Brock
·2 min read
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The Cowboys made a bit of a free agency splash by agreeing to terms with former Falcons safety Keanu Neal over the weekend, signaling a serious upgrade at a position that has long been a weak spot on the Dallas roster.

But word is already coming in that the team won’t play the 2017 Pro Bowler at safety, leaving that hole on the defense’s back end for now as two more veteran free agent safeties are expected to visit this week.

NFL insider Ian Rapoport tweeted Monday that the Cowboys and new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn plan to use Neal at weakside linebacker, a move that many have predicted.

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The shifting of Neal potentially leaves a starting safety spot still open, which makes the Hooker and Kazee visits even more intriguing.

Malik Hooker was the Colts’ first-round pick in 2017, even after being unable to participate in combine drills due to recovery from injury. The Ohio State product was nonetheless ranked the second-best safety of that draft class behind only Jamal Adams. In 35 games as a pro, Hooker has been in on 121 tackles, intercepted seven passes, and recovered two fumbles. He missed the majority of last season with a torn Achilles tendon.

Damontae Kazee is- like Neal- a known commodity to Quinn and secondary/defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr., having played for both of them in Atlanta. A fifth-round pick out of San Diego State in the same class as Hooker, Kazee went on to be the league’s co-leader in interceptions in 2018, just his second season. Over 52 games, Kazee has recorded 199 tackles, 10 picks, and three fumble recoveries. He also tore an Achilles early in the 2020 season and missed the Falcons’ final 12 contests.

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Both Hooker and Kazee are expected to visit with the Cowboys within the next few days and will likely go through physical tests to gauge their respective Achilles recoveries.

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