People often equate good free agent signings to how much money is spent on them. If a team scores somebody for a blockbuster deal, it must mean they got it right. Except that has proven untrue for a long time. Often the best free agency teams are the ones that find good players for bargains. Remember, the Chicago Bears nabbed Akiem Hicks for $10 million over two years when they first signed him. Absolute robbery. Now some believe Nicholas Morrow might fall in that same category.
Several fans weren’t sure how to react when the Bears signed him a few months ago. Most of that was because they didn’t know his name. The Las Vegas Raiders haven’t exactly been known for fielding good defenses in recent years. That said, it seems like GM Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus saw somebody that fits the type of system they plan to run. For that, they need linebackers that can run. Speed is critical. Morrow fits that mold. Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report even went so far as to call him the team’s best-kept secret this offseason.
“Morrow missed the entire 2021 campaign because of an ankle injury, though he’s made a full recovery. Before his lost season, the versatile linebacker had his best year in 2020 with the Las Vegas Raiders, logging 78 tackles, eight for loss, nine pass breakups and an interception.
Morrow can play all three linebacker positions, and he’s a former collegiate safety from Greenville University. The Bears can use him in different spots across the formation on all three downs, which may allow him to top his 2020 numbers as the probable starter alongside Roquan Smith.”
The player is good, but the fits might be even better.
No scheme has done a more outstanding job of elevating fast, undersized linebackers than the Tampa-2 and its various incarnations. It helped Derrick Brooks (6’0) become a Hall of Famer in Tampa Bay. It helped Lance Briggs (6’1) reach seven Pro Bowls in Chicago. Lavonte Davis excelled in it as well for the Buccaneers. While Morrow may never reach the heights of those names, he may not find a better system for him.
Nicholas Morrow can trust this coaching staff.
Eberflus is a former linebacker himself. He coached the position for almost a decade in Dallas before heading to Indianapolis as their defensive coordinator. There he transformed Darius Leonard into an All-Pro. This is a coach that got 124 tackles and 2.5 sacks out of Anthony Walker one year. Bobby Okereke had 132 last season. Morrow is a better athlete than both of them. If he follows Eberflus’ directions, what he accomplished with the Raiders will be a joke in comparison.
So what Moton said is true.
This could indeed be a well-kept secret. A combination of Nicholas Morrow and Roquan Smith might be one of the best linebacker tandems in the NFC by the end of 2022. Yes, that is somewhat optimistic but also warranted. Morrow is a good player. Better than he gets credit for. This defense will give him a chance to show everybody how underappreciated he was in Las Vegas.