NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee linebacker Derrick Morgan believes he’s right where he’s supposed to be after testing free agency this offseason.
He visited both the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers last March and even was drawing interest from the Dallas Cowboys when he decided to return to the Titans.
”It was good to kind of compare and contrast all three teams and see where I fit in both places,” Morgan said Monday. ”I think that was really important for me to get out there and see what was out there and be able to come back and make an educated decision.”
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Leaving Tennessee would have been easy for the 6-foot-3, 261-pound Morgan. He spent the first four seasons of his NFL career playing defensive end in a 4-3 scheme before being asked a year ago to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 front.
The Titans also let him reach free agency in March before convincing Morgan to sign a four-year deal keeping him with the team that drafted him 16th overall in 2010 out of Georgia Tech.
They lured Morgan back with the opportunity to play a second straight season in the same defense, and they also signed linebacker Brian Orakpo to play opposite Morgan.
”I hope they pay all the attention to Brian and leave me one-on-one,” Morgan said. ”We’ll see. I think they’re going to have to worry about more than one guy.”
Morgan is coming off the best season of his career despite that position switch. He started all 16 games for only the second time in his career and had a team-high 6 1/2 sacks with 27 quarterback pressures and 13 tackles for loss.
Morgan said he feels much more comfortable now in the defense and finds himself playing without having to think about where he needs to be.
Making the switch to linebacker also meant Morgan had to defend against the pass. He defended nine passes and forced two fumbles while coming so close to a turnover.
”I had an interception in my hands against Indy, and I dropped it and it still haunts me to this day,” Morgan said. ”But I think I got one coming this year. We practice ball drills every day in individuals. I think that’s something that’s been stressed in the offseason just getting our hands a little better.”
The Titans finished up their deals with Morgan and Orakpo on the same day in March.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt can’t wait to see how offenses try to defend Morgan now that they have to account for Orakpo and thinks the Titans will see a big difference.
”That’s part of the reason we felt good about getting Brian in here and we felt good about getting Derrick back because we feel we have two guys off the edge,” Whisenhunt said.
”We felt last year a lot of times Derrick was close. I think if we’ve got another guy that they have to worry about and Jurrell (Casey) inside maybe it’ll get us some one-on-one matchups.”
Orakpo is just as happy to see Morgan on the other end of the defensive front. The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker said he knew Morgan was a great player before joining Tennessee.
”And he proved me right,” Orakpo said. ”He’s a great player, a guy that knows how to get after it, very relentless after the ball. And he’s just going to continue to get better. He’s in his prime right now the way he uses his hands, the way he stays low. He’s a great rusher, and I’m excited to be working with him.”
Notes: C Brian Schwenke (foot) did not practice. S Da’Norris Searcy (knee) missed a second straight practice. Whisenhunt said linebackers J.R. Tavai (hamstring), Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (hamstring) and Zaviar Gooden (hamstring) are improving.
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