Eagles Eyeing Nicholas Morrow As LB Starter

While the Eagles carried notable veteran linebacker contracts on their books in the not-so-distant past, the team has shifted toward a low-cost blueprint at this position in recent years. The defending NFC champions continued down this road this offseason.

Philadelphia let both its Super Bowl LVII regulars at linebacker — T.J. Edwards and Kyzir Whitewalk in free agency rather than pay up to keep them. Beyond Tremaine Edmunds and Bobby Okereke‘s deals, paying up did not mean upper-crust salaries. The next tier of starter-caliber ILBs received between $5-$7MM in free agency. The friendly market did not prompt Philly to go off-script.

After a developmental year as a second-stringer, 2022 third-rounder Nakobe Dean is in line to start. As of now, a Division III success story is favored to join him as the Eagles’ other ILB regular. Nicholas Morrow, who signed a one-year deal worth just $1.16MM, sits as the frontrunner to start alongside Dean, Zach Berman of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

Morrow, who will turn 28 next week, did not come close to matching Dean’s prospect profile. He played at Greenville (Ill.) University and caught on with the Raiders as a UDFA in 2017. But the unlikely long-term NFLer has extensive experience in starting lineups. Morrow has worked as a first-stringer in 46 games, including 17 for the Bears last season. The seventh-year vet established career-high totals in tackles (116) and tackles for loss (11). This came after Morrow suffered what turned out to be a season-ending ankle injury during a training camp practice in August 2021.

Despite Morrow making his way back from that malady to be a full-timer on a rebuilding Bears team, Pro Football Focus slotted him outside the top 60 at the position. PFF did grade Morrow as a top-30 ILB option in 2020, however.

During Morrow’s second free agency foray, he could not come especially close to the above-referenced second tier of the off-ball linebacker market. While Edwards, White and ex-Eagle starter Alex Singleton fetched AAVs between $5MM and $6.5MM (from the Bears, Cardinals and Broncos), Morrow joined the Eagles for no guaranteed money. This could create a wide range of outcomes come training camp, as players without guarantees are obviously simpler cut candidates. Third-year UDFA Christian Elliss might push Morrow for playing time, per Berman, but the young defender has only played 29 career defensive snaps.

The Eagles once carried Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham extensions on their payroll, though Bradham’s 2018 contract (five years, $40MM) only coexisted with Kendricks’ Chip Kelly-era extension for two months. The Eagles cut Kendricks in May 2018. Since releasing Bradham after the 2019 season, the team has rolled with bottom-tier contracts on its defensive second level. Dean fits the mold, being signed to a rookie deal through 2025. Morrow, who has never played in an NFL postseason game, will have a chance to carve out a higher-profile role for himself on his league-minimum deal.

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