Derrick Morgan

South Rumors: Falcons, Buccaneers, Morgan

The Falcons will be looking for a new kicker for temporary purposes. Matt Bryant will miss Atlanta’s Week 7 Monday night game, Dan Quinn said. The longtime Falcons kicker is dealing with a strained hamstring, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, who adds Giorgio Tavecchio is among the names the Falcons are considering as a replacement. Tavecchio was briefly affiliated with the Falcons earlier this year, but Bryant’s kicked in all six Falcon games in his 10th season with the franchise. He hasn’t missed a game since he was limited to 11 appearances in 2015. Tavecchio will be among “a number of kickers” considered during the lead-up to the Falcons’ home Monday-nighter against the Giants.

Here’s the latest from the South divisions, continuing on the Atlanta injury front:

  • Another week of recovery will likely be required for Devonta Freeman, per McClure. The Falcons’ starting running back is has dealt with knee and foot trouble and now has a groin issue to overcome. Atlanta’s gotten by with Tevin Coleman and newcomer Ito Smith in the backfield.
  • Ali Marpet became the latest Buccaneers starter to sign a lucrative extension, joining Mike Evans and Cameron Brate in doing so this year. More re-ups could be on track. Kwon Alexander and the Bucs are still talking an extension, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports. While Stroud writes it’s uncertain if the Bucs want to pay Alexander like a top-tier linebacker — they have Lavonte David on the books at $10MM per year — he’s on the radar. As is fourth-year left tackle Donovan Smith, who’s in a contract year. Despite rarely being viewed as a productive player by Pro Football Focus, Smith is well thought of among Bucs brass, per Stroud. Adam Humphries is another player the Bucs would like to retain, though they have a crowded receiver room. Chris Godwin‘s emerged as Tampa Bay’s No. 3 man and may be Evans’ top complement if DeSean Jackson ($10MM non-guaranteed salary in 2019) isn’t back next year. Humphries’ contract expires after this season.
  • Derrick Morgan will miss a few weeks because of a shoulder injury, Mike Vrabel said. A ninth-year player who dealt with a knee injury during the preseason, Morgan has played in all six Titans games this year and has only missed more than two games in a season once in the past eight years. Harold Landry will likely start opposite Brian Orakpo in the meantime.
  • Stationed on the Texans‘ PUP list, D’Onta Foreman can return to practice this week but probably won’t, per Bill O’Brien (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, on Twitter). Foreman’s been out since late last season because of an Achilles’ tendon tear.
  • Braden Smith appears to have solidified himself as the Colts‘ right tackle. Indianapolis went through several players in hopes of identifying a candidate, but Frank Reich said Monday (via ESPN.com’s Mike Wells, on Twitter) this job will be Smith’s to lose. Smith’s started three games for the Colts this season.
  • Former Lions, Patriots and Bengals linebacker Marquis Flowers worked out for the Texans on Monday, Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com tweets. The Lions cut Flowers last week. He played in 16 games for the Bengals in 2015 and ’16 and suited up for all 19 of the Patriots’ games last year.

Injury Notes: Berry, Giants, Titans, Falcons

Some teams will be opening their seasons without key defenders. Here’s the latest from the Week 1 injury front:

  • The nagging heel issue Eric Berry‘s been dealing with will likely keep him out of Week 1. Andy Reid (via Adam Teicher of ESPN.com, on Twitter) does not expect his All-Pro safety to be available when the Chiefs play arguably their toughest AFC West game of the season — a road tilt against the Chargers. Berry’s been held out of practice this week. He missed the Chiefs’ final 15 games of last season with an Achilles tear, his second severe NFL injury. Berry’s right heel’s plagued him in recent weeks, and was also an issue in Kansas City’s 2017 training camp; the ninth-year safety tore his left Achilles’ tendon in Week 1 of last season. He hasn’t practice since August 11. Eric Murray and the recently reacquired Ron Parker are K.C.’s likely safety starters, per Teicher.
  • Suffering a high ankle sprain in practice late last month, Olivier Vernon will not be available for the Giants on Sunday. Vernon will miss New York’s Week 1 game against Jacksonville, Pat Shurmur said (via SNY.tv’s Ralph Vacchiano). This will pose a problem for the Giants’ pass rush, which is now without Jason Pierre-Paul. This could push rookie Lorenzo Carter into Big Blue’s lineup Sunday, per Matt Lombardo of NJ.com, who adds the Georgia-developed edge defender may play plenty regardless of his first-string status.
  • The Titans will be missing some key players but may also have one back sooner than expected. Derrick Morgan‘s meniscus issue hasn’t stopped him from practicing this week, and the ninth-year edge player practiced fully on Thursday to put him in line to start Sunday. However, the Titans will begin their season without Jack Conklin, Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, Jim Wyatt of Titansonline.com tweets. Evans and Landry were Tennessee’s top two 2018 draft picks.
  • Keanu Neal‘s Week 1 injury (an ACL tear) proved to be the biggest health news thus far on Friday, and the Falcons may not seek an outside replacement. Damontae Kazee is likely the next man up for the Falcons, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets, rather than Atlanta going after former Dan Quinn charge Earl Thomas or UFA Eric Reid.
  • Joey Bosa may miss Week 1 as well, and the Chargers‘ dynamic pass rusher was spotted in a walking boot on Friday, Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Bosa will be out for Sunday’s game, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Bosa missed the preseason with a foot injury, but Wang notes (on Twitter) that ailment healed and that the third-year defensive end is week-to-week because of a different malady on that same foot. While the Bolts have maybe the NFL’s best edge-rushing tandem in Bosa and Melvin Ingram, they aren’t especially deep at that position.
  • Jesse James will start at tight end for the Steelers on Sunday against the Browns. Vance McDonald will miss Pittsburgh’s opener, per Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews (Twitter link). A foot injury shelved McDonald during the preseason, halting the tight end’s offseason momentum as he prepares for his second Steelers season.

Derrick Morgan, Rishard Matthews Recovering From Knee Surgeries

Although they’re on different timetables due to the junctures of their respective knee surgeries, both Derrick Morgan and Rishard Matthews underwent meniscus operations this month, Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com reports.

While the Titans’ recently extended wide receiver may be ready to come off the PUP list by next week, Kuharsky notes Morgan will probably miss some regular-season time. He pegs the outside linebacker’s chances at being ready by Tennessee’s opener as less likely than him missing time.

Morgan suffered a knee injury in Tennessee’s second preseason game last week, per Kuharsky, who reports this is likely going to be a four- to five-week recovery process for the ninth-year defender. In the event Morgan misses time in September, Harold Landry figures to have a bigger role in his first NFL month. Morgan’s registered 44 sacks in eight seasons, collecting 7.5 in 2017.

Matthews underwent his surgery during the first week of August, but he’s back to running routes, Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com notes. Matthews has been shelved throughout the 2018 offseason, but Kuharsky notes the veteran was dealing with a different injury during the spring. The Titans did not disclose Matthews’ ailments throughout the offseason.

Matthews has posted more than 1,700 receiving yards in his two Titans seasons, scoring 13 touchdowns in that time. Second-year receivers Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor have worked as the Titans’ starters during Matthews’ lengthy absence. Both Matthews and Morgan played in 14 regular-season games last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Notes: Bortles, Morgan, Bucs

Now that Andrew Luck‘s record-setting contract has been wrapped up, beat writers and national reporters alike are already speculating as to when the next big-money quarterback deal will be consummated. Members of the 2014 draft class are eligible to sign extensions after the 2016 season is over, and Hays Carlyon of The Florida Times-Union writes that the Jaguars will extend quarterback Blake Bortles, the third overall selection of the 2014 draft, as soon as the collective bargaining agreement allows them to do so.

Of course, as a first-round selection, Jacksonville could keep Bortles under club control through 2018 by exercising his fifth-year option, but Carlyon believes the Jags will move to sign Bortles to a long-term deal early so that they can front-load his contract and take advantage of the considerable salary cap space they currently have, thereby giving them more flexibility down the road.

Now for more notes from the league’s south divisions:

  • Jarrod Wilson, an undrafted free agent safety from Michigan, made a couple of splash plays towards the end of the Jaguars‘ offseason program, and those flashes have put him on defensive coordinator Todd Wash‘s radar. He still has a long way to go to crack the team’s 53-man roster, but Ryan O’Halloran of The Florida Times-Union can envision at least one scenario in which Wilson would make the club.
  • Titans OLB Derrick Morgan has joined free agent offensive tackle Eugene Monroe as a vocal supporter of increased cannabis research, as Ben Volin of The Boston Globe (citing USA Today) writes. Morgan did multiple interviews last week calling for the NFL to support cannabis research to determine if cannabidiol or any other compounds can help treat or prevent chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Morgan is entering the second year of a four-year, $27MM he inked with Tennessee last March.
  • Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter recently indicated that his club may target a few veteran free agents to round out the roster when cuts start being made this summer, and Greg Auman of The Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter) indicated that obvious positions in need of an upgrade are fourth defensive tackle, third running back, and fifth linebacker.
  • Rookie quarterback Josh Woodrum, who was signed by the Giants as a UDFA before being released just three days later, was ultimately claimed off waivers by the Colts, and he believes he has made great strides during Indianapolis’ offseason program, as Andrew Walker of Colts.com writes. Currently the fourth QB on the Colts roster behind Andrew Luck, Scott Tolzien, and Stephen Morris, Woodrum is encouraged by his progress in adapting to the traditional pro-style offense that the Colts run, which is a stark contrast from what he became accustomed to while setting records at FCS program Liberty University. Needless to say, Woodrum is unlikely to make the team in 2016, but he is hoping to develop his game enough to make a good impression on all of the league’s 32 clubs if and when he gets a chance in the preseason.

Titans Place Derrick Morgan On IR

THURSDAY, 4:32pm: The team placed Morgan on injured reserve, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets.

MONDAY, 3:42pm: Titans defensive end Derrick Morgan will have shoulder surgery and miss the remainder of the year, according to Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com (on Twitter). Ditto for Dexter McCluster, who will undergo season-ending surgery on his wrist (link).

Back in March, the Titans re-signed Morgan to a four-year, $27MM deal with $10.5MM of that fully guaranteed. Morgan’s return to Tennessee was a little surprising, since he was widely considered a better fit as a 4-3 defensive end, and has never really lived up to his first-round billing in five seasons with the Titans. However, despite modest sack totals (his 6.5 in 2014 matched a career high), Morgan graded as a top-10 outside linebacker according to PFF, which ranked him eighth in 2014 and credited him with 49 total quarterback pressures. Morgan paid visits to the Falcons and Buccaneers in the spring and was reportedly scheduled to hit Dallas for a meeting with the Cowboys. Instead, he circled back to Tennessee.

In 10 games (9 starts) in 2015, Morgan has amassed 24 tackles and 4.5 sacks with two pass deflections and one forced fumble. The versatile McCluster, meanwhile, has tallied 507 catching and receiving yards for the Titans in 2015.

Contract Details: Morgan, Gilchrist, Cameron

Here are some details on several of the new contracts agreed to or signed by free agents within the last few days:

AFC deals:

  • Derrick Morgan, OLB (Titans): Four years, $27MM base value. $10.5MM fully guaranteed. $6MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun).
  • Marcus Gilchrist, S (Jets): Four years, $22MM base value. $10MM guaranteed (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com).
  • Jordan Cameron, TE (Dolphins): Two years, $15MM base value. $5MM fully guaranteed. $4MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Paul Fanaika, OL (Chiefs): Three years, $6.5MM. $1.75MM signing bonus. Incentives and escalators available (Twitter links via Wilson).
  • Alan Branch, DT (Patriots): Two years, $4.3MM base value. $700K signing bonus. Option for 2016 (all Twitter links via Wilson).
  • Tyrod Taylor, QB (Bills): Two years, $3.35MM base value. $1.15MM fully guaranteed. $400K signing bonus. Third year voids (all four Twitter links via Wilson).

NFC deals:

  • Jasper Brinkley, LB (Cowboys): Two years, $6.5MM base value. $2MM guaranteed, $2MM option bonus in 2016 (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Akeem Ayers, LB (Rams): Two years, $6MM base value. $2.75MM guaranteed. $1.3MM roster bonus in 2015 (Twitter links via Wilson).
  • Andrew Gachkar, LB (Cowboys): Two years, $5.2MM base value. $1.2MM signing bonus. Up to $1MM in annual incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Nick Fairley, DT (Rams): One year, $5MM base value. $1.5MM roster bonus in 2015. Sack and playoff incentives available (Twitter links via Wilson).
  • Erik Pears, OL (49ers): Two years, $4.7MM base value. $1MM guaranteed. $500K signing bonus (Twitter links via Wilson).
  • Kurt Coleman, S (Panthers): Two years, $2.8MM base value. $600K signing bonus (Twitter links via Wilson).
  • O’Brien Schofield, DE (Falcons): One year, $1.7MM base value. $255K signing bonus (Twitter links via Wilson).
  • Chris Conte, S (Buccaneers): One year, $1.5MM base value. $1.25MM fully guaranteed (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com).

Titans Sign Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan

1:39pm: The Titans have now officially announced their deals with Orakpo, Morgan, and the three other players they agreed to sign today (Twitter link).

7:05am: After staying relatively silent throughout the first few days of 2015’s free agent period, the Titans have made their big splash on Friday morning, fortifying their defense with a pair of pass rushers, per multiple reports. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter), the team has agreed to terms with former Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo. Meanwhile, Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports (via Twitter) that the club has also reached a deal to re-sign its own marquee free agent, Derrick Morgan.Brian Orakpo

Both players will be signing lucrative four-year contracts with Tennessee. Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports has the terms on both deals, tweeting that Orakpo’s four-year pact will have a $32MM base value, with $13.5MM guaranteed, and can be worth up to $35MM overall. Morgan’s deal is worth just a little less, with a max value of $30MM, a base value of $27MM, and $10.5MM in guarantees, tweets Garafolo.

The pair of signings are extra intriguing for a Titans defense that will be bringing aboard former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau for the coming season. Having made the switch to a 3-4 scheme a year ago, the Titans went through some growing pains en route to a 2-14 record, but LeBeau is expected to help smooth things out in 2015, and having a pair of talented pass rushers like Orakpo and Morgan on the outside should only help that transition.

Orakpo, 28, is coming off a disappointing 2014 season that ended after just seven games when he tore his pectoral muscle and was placed on injured reserve. Still, despite the fact that he logged just 0.5 sacks last year, the former first-round pick was viewed as one of the top free agent players a year ago, when he was coming off a 10.5-sack season and earned a franchise tag from Washington.

Orakpo, who had a multi-day visit to Tennessee this week and was expected to eventually visit the Cardinals if he didn’t work something out with the Titans, was ranked as the NFL’s fourth-best 3-4 outside linebacker in 2013 by Pro Football Focus’ grades (subscription required). Per PFF, Orakpo racked up an impressive 51 total quarterback pressures in ’13.

As for Morgan, his return to Tennessee is a little surprising, since he is considered a better fit as a 4-3 defensive end, and has never really lived up to his first-round billing in five seasons with the Titans. However, despite modest sack totals (his 6.5 in 2014 matched a career high), Morgan graded as a top-10 outside linebacker according to PFF, which ranked him eighth in 2014 and credited him with 49 total quarterback pressures.

Morgan paid visits to the Falcons and Buccaneers this week, and was reportedly scheduled to hit Dallas for a meeting with the Cowboys next. Instead, he’ll be returning to Tennessee, where LeBeau will be tasked with getting the most out of the former 16th overall pick, who will be entering his age-26 season.

When I ranked PFR’s top 50 free agents last weekend, both Orakpo and Morgan squeezed into the top 20, at 19th and 20th respectively. Outside of Greg Hardy, who has his share of off-field question marks, the two players looked like the clear-cut top pass rushers still available as we neared the end of the first week of free agency. The Titans did well to get them both, and if the club were to add to its front seven next month by drafting a player like USC’s Leonard Williams to complement Jurrell Casey, the defense in Tennessee could look significantly more dangerous heading into the 2015 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

FA Rumors: Morgan, Shorts, Gresham, Texans

As anticipated, Derrick Morgan left his meeting in Tampa Bay today without signing with the Buccaneers, tweets Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. The Cowboys are expected to be next on Morgan’s list of visits, and the Titans still want to re-sign him as well. As for the Bucs, if they decide to move on from Morgan, it’s not clear who they’d target instead. Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that the club has yet to reach out to George Selvie, who played his college ball at the University of South Florida.

Here’s more on free agency:

  • The Jets have interest in wide receiver Cecil Shorts, according to Dom Cosentino of NJ.com. Wide receiver isn’t really an area of need for New York, since the team already has Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and Jeremy Kerley on the roster, but adding more weapons would only help whichever quarterback ends up as the Jets’ starter.
  • Tight end Jermaine Gresham paid a visit to the Raiders this week, and still could sign with the team, but nothing is imminent at the moment, tweets Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • There’s “genuine mutual interest” between the Packers and free agent cornerback Tramon Williams, reports Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com (via Twitter). Having lost Davon House in free agency, Green Bay could use some depth at corner, and Williams, who has received some interest from around the league, is certainly a player the team is familiar with.
  • Despite locking up free agent safety Rahim Moore today, the Texans would still like to bring back their own free agent, Kendrick Lewis, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). As McClain notes, Houston often utilizes three safeties on defense.
  • Washington has inquired on free agent safety Taylor Mays and there’s “mutual interest” between the two sides, but it’s not clear if a visit has been scheduled yet, tweets John Keim of ESPN.com. Mays was primarily a special-teamer for the Bengals last season.

FA Rumors: Morgan, Orakpo, Cameron

Derrick Morgan won’t be signing with the Buccaneers, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Falcons are out on Morgan too after signing Adrian Clayborn, Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com tweets. More free agent news from around the league..

  • The Titans are still in the hunt for both Morgan and Brian Orakpo, and their best-case scenario would be to land both edge defenders, tweets Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean.
  • Tight end Jordan Cameron is still in Miami and there’s a lot of mutual interest between him and the Dolphins, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Meanwhile, his old team, the Browns, remain the mix and a third team is also in the running.
  • Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link) hears that there has been a lot of interest in free agent defensive end Michael Johnson, but it’s unclear if any team besides the Bengals or Vikings have a shot at him. Johnson, of course, played for Cincinnati prior to joining the Bucs last year, and was coached there by Mike Zimmer.
  • The Chiefs have had exploratory talks with former Rams center Tim Barnes, Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star tweets. Paylor expects the Chiefs to sign a veteran center, whether it’s Barnes or someone else.
  • The Steelers are generally quiet when it comes to free agency and trades, but Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) hears that they’re exploring options for a kick returner.

FA Rumors: Morgan, Cameron, Harvin

Having visited the Falcons this week, free agent edge defender Derrick Morgan is on the Buccaneers today, and will meet with the team’s coaches today, per Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter links). As Getlin observes, the Bucs will have to put a strong offer on the table for Morgan if they want to lock him up, since other teams remain in pursuit. The Cowboys have been mentioned as a possible suitor, and the Titans maintain interest in re-signing their own free agent.

The Bucs already locked up one notable front-seven player today, signing Henry Melton to a one-year deal — if they were also able to add Morgan, it would go a long way toward improving their outside pass rush, with Michael Johnson no longer on the roster.

Here are a few more free agent updates from around the NFL:

  • Jordan Cameron‘s visit with the Dolphins is happening today, writes Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Miami is still hoping to retain Charles Clay, but Cameron certainly wouldn’t be a bad Plan B if the Bills sign Clay to an offer sheet that the Dolphins can’t – or don’t want to – match.
  • A source who spoke with free agent Percy Harvin told Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter) that the wide receiver doesn’t want to be a “gadget guy” anymore and wants to play something closer to a traditional wide receiver role. Throughout his career, he has had coaches “lie” to him and tell him that he would play a typical wide receiver, only to have him involved more in unorthodox plays.
  • The Dolphins aren’t done adding cornerbacks, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. They’re working on scheduling a visit with Falcons free agent cornerback Robert McClain and that meeting could go down this week. In addition to Miami, McClain has also drawn interest from the Vikings and Saints (link). McClain made six starts for Atlanta in 2014 and also had two interceptions.
  • The interest between the Titans and James Harrison is mutual, Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com tweets. Of course, Harrison is not a high priority free agent at this stage of his career, so the Titans can take care of him later and they won’t need to address signing him in week one of free agency.
  • Before signing with the Panthers, tight end Ed Dickson said that he drew interest from the Raiders, Broncos, Cardinals, and Browns, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer tweets. But, he says, no other team “came close” to Carolina.

Zach Links contributed to this post.