The Alabama Crimson Tide will suffer another significant loss on their defense with the news that safety Deionte Thompson will declare for the draft.
The 2019 NFL Draft class just got a bit richer among their secondary prospects with the news that Alabama safety Deionte Thompson will make himself eligible as an underclassman.
While Thompson hasn’t officially declared for the draft, rumors are saying he is “expected” to turn pro after waffling back and forth on his decision. In fact. earlier rumors pegged him as returning to ‘Bama. However, now, Matt Zenitz of AL.com reports that Thompson wrestled with the decision-making process.
"Word is that Thompson struggled with his decision since the national championship game and met multiple times this week with Nick Saban but ultimately made the final decision to turn pro on Saturday."
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Thompson has been projected as a first-round pick by many mock drafters already, even before it was clear he would make himself available. Thompson has also been linked to the Kansas City Chiefs in more than one set of draft projections as a potential secondary grab in the bottom of the first round.
Thompson, a 6’2, 196 lbs. prospect, comes with Saban’s solid coaching pedigree and has been a force in the defensive backfield for the Crimson Tide for the last two years. Thompson had 78 total tackles this year with 6 passes defended, 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions.
If Thompson is available when/if the Chiefs pick at the bottom of the first round, a guarantee now that they are among the final four teams still fighting for the Lombardi Trophy, he would certainly be a tempting choice for the Chiefs front office. Brett Veach will certainly look at ways to improve the secondary—and particularly the safety position—with his offseason assets. Thompson would be a big help for a unit that could use youth, talent and depth.
Coming into next season, the Chiefs have Dan Sorensen and Eric Berry both under contract, and they entered this season as the presumed starters in their positions. However, both were injured for much of the year, and the Chiefs drafted Armani Watts in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft to serve as competition and depth. Watts could take over for Sorensen at free safety if he’s able to bounce back from his own spot on injured reserve. Eric Murray is also present and heading into his final contract year.
Elsewhere, Ron Parker is set to hit free agency once again after signing a one-year deal to return to the team. Sorensen is easily released if the Chiefs simply want to move on and save money, although the move would cost $2M in dead cap space. Jordan Lucas is a restricted free agent, so he might leave as well if another team wants to overpay for the potential ceiling and special teams excellence.
Then there are the complications of Berry’s recent extension. He’s the highest paid safety in the entire game who has played a total of three games in the last two years. He’s also now 30-years-old. Betting against Berry being able to come back from injury would normally be considered a fool’s errand, but that was the same train of thought coming into 2018 as he returned from an Achilles tear.
Next year, Berry comes with the highest cap hit yet at $16.5 million, an astronomical total for the position but especially so for a veteran with such a poor track record of health. For questions about his health, age, and comeback ability to all circle like vultures over the fact that he’s so expensive—it all makes for a miserable situation for Veach and his staff.
At the very least, the position deserves close attention in the draft. Impact players must be available even if the Chiefs are still willing to keep some unknowns on the roster. Going forward into confusion without a steady backup plan is a disaster waiting to happen, and that might just make someone like Deionte Thompson the right fit.