Key defensive leader returning to Falcons

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 15: Ricardo Allen #37 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts to a missed field goal by Zach Hocker #2 of the New Orleans Saints during the second quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 15, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The Atlanta Falcons have tendered an exclusive rights contract to starting free safety Riccardo Allen. Allen, 25 years old, was a restricted free agent this offseason and will also be a restricted free agent next offseason.

Allen is one part of a deep and talented secondary for the Falcons that includes pro bowler Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Jalen Collins, Brian Poole and 2016 first round draft pick Keanu Neal. The Falcons are also working on a contract to re-sign reserve safety Kemal Ishmael, who is a key special team’s player.

Allen, 5’9 and 186 pounds, is a consistent last line of defense for the Falcons. In 2016, he recorded 90 combined tackles, two interceptions and three pass deflections. He had an outstanding postseason as well, recording 14 combined tackles, 2 interceptions and 2 pass deflections.

Allen is considered a late round gem by NFL draft standards. Drafted in the 5th round of the 2014 NFL draft at number 147 overall out of Purdue, Allen displayed some ball hawking traits at cornerback early on for the Falcons.

When current Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn was hired, one of his first decisions was to convert Allen to free safety, where he has remained ever since.

Many fans and pundits expected the Falcons to target an Earl Thomas like free safety early on in Quinn’s tenure to help run his Seattle cover three defense. However, Allen really impressed during training camp, earned the starting job for the 2015 season, and has been a steady presence ever since.