Bucannon hooks up with Falcons

Associated PressFormer Washington State safety Deone Bucannon tries to make a tackle during a 2019 game with the New York Giants. Bucannon reached a deal Thursday with the Atlanta Falcons.

The past couple of NFL seasons, former Washington State defensive star Deone Bucannon has struggled to find a comfortable niche. But the Falcons seem to think he’ll find one in Atlanta.

The Falcons announced Thursday they had reached a one-year deal with Bucannon, who was billed a safety when he became a first-round draft choice for the Arizona Cardinals in 2014 but has spent much of his NFL career at linebacker.

That versatility appeals to the Falcons, according to an article on the team’s website. At 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, Bucannon brings the type of speed and pass-coverage skills to linebacker that Atlanta has favored under coach Dan Quinn. The article compared him to the Falcons’ Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun, and projected him as a rotational player and special-teams fixture.

Bucannon, 27, played for Tampa Bay and the New York Giants last year, looking for a restart after a disappointing 2018 season with Arizona. During Steve Wilks’ lone season as Cardinals coach, Bucannan was held back by injuries and an apparent lack of affinity with Wilks’ 4-2-5 defense.

But he started 56 games during his five-year Arizona career, making 406 tackles, including 27 for loss. He did his best work when asked to use his speed in various ways.

Nonetheless, he spent much of his time at inside linebacker, a peculiar fact to Cougar fans who remember him playing safety as a perhaps 170-pound freshman out of the California Bay Area, pressed into a prominent role for an embattled WSU defense in 2010.

He gained 20 pounds in the months before his senior year in 2013, when he turned heads as an imposing 215-pound safety who made first-team Associated Press All-America. The Cougars found it difficult to replace him the following year during a 3-9 season.

Grummert may be contacted at daleg@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2290.

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