The Atlanta Falcons, in need of safety help, traded linebacker Duke Riley and a 2020 sixth-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for safety Johnathan Cyprien and a ’20 seventh-round draft pick, the teams announced Monday.
Cyprien, 29, has started 70 career games in six seasons, including four years as a starting strong safety in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars run a scheme similar to that of the Falcons. The 6-foot-1, 211-pound Cyprien is known more as an in-the-box safety but has been a liability in coverage.
The Falcons lost their in-the-box safety when strong safety Keanu Neal suffered a season-ending left Achilles tear against IndiaNapolis. Neal had surgery last Thursday and is expected to make a full recovery. However, the 1-3 Falcons need another body capable of contributing immediately, particularly with tackling.
Coach Dan Quinn said after Neal’s injury he would explore all options at strong safety. The Falcons brought in veterans T.J. McDonald and George IIoka for workouts without signing either of them. Then the team elevated strong safety Jamal Carter from the practice squad.
In Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Quinn experimented with different looks, including playing nickelback Damontae Kazee at free safety some alongside Ricardo Allen, who moved from free safety to strong. The trade would indicate plans to utilize Cyprien in the defense, although Cyprien’s role with the Eagles had been limited to 15 total snaps. He was thrust into action last week against Green Bay due to injury. Cyprien also played special teams for the Eagles.
Cyprien played some linebacker with the Jaguars and started 10 games with the Titans at strong safety in 2017. Cyprien tore his ACL before the 2018 season while with the Titans.
As for Riley, the former 2017 third-round draft pick could not carve out a role on defense after starting 10 games in 2018. He appeared to be on the roster bubble coming into this season but made a few plays in preseason to impress the coaches. But Riley had to settle for a special-teams role.