The Atlanta Falcons announced on Monday that they have re-signed safety/linebacker Kemal Ishmael to a one year, $2.5 million contract.
“We are pleased to be able to get Kemal back,” said General Manager Thomas Dimitroff. “He is one of the toughest competitors we have and continued to battle every week last year despite a shoulder injury. He has shown the ability to play both safety and linebacker for us and that will continue to be valuable in our scheme.”
That versatility is the primary reason the Falcons believed it was so important to bring Ishmael back. A jack-of-all-trades type of player, he provides depth at multiple positions on defense. He is also a big hitting presence on special teams.
When the Falcons suffered a flurry of injuries at linebacker during the season, Ishmael stepped in and played admirably. He posted 18 combined tackles in both games at linebacker and even recorded a pass deflection in coverage. In his NFL career, he has 197 combined tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 5 interceptions.
Outside of versatility and special teams, re-signing Ishmael was important for another reason. Starting strong safety Keanu Neal is one of the biggest hitting players in the NFL, which means he could injure himself trying to separate the football from a receiver.
The Falcons realize Ishmael could have to step in at a moments notice at strong safety. He could also start at linebacker in a pinch in 2016. That versatility, along with his special teams experience, make him a valuable player on the Falcons roster.