NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Derrick Morgan wants to win; he decided he wants to win with the team that drafted him 16th overall in 2010.
On Friday, the Titans locked up Morgan for four more years.
Titans Online looks back at the career of linebacker Derrick Morgan, who announced his retirement after playing all nine of his NFL seasons with the Tennessee Titans. (AP Photos)
Signing fellow outside linebacker Brian Orakpo was a factor. Hiring Dick LeBeau to run the defense was a factor. But it was a final push from Tennessee's front office that brought Morgan back to the Titans.
"They expressed how much I'm appreciated here and how much I'm needed here in terms of what their plans are in free agency," Morgan said. "Getting a guy like Orakpo in is a dramatic upgrade and a great step in the right direction for our defense. Things like that stood out to me, knowing this team is doing whatever they need to do in order to win and be successful. In my ongoing conversations with coach Whisenhunt and coach LeBeau, I really got on board with what their vision was."
Morgan has posted three consecutive seasons of six-plus sacks and has 23 in his five-year career with the Titans. His 6.5 sacks in 2014 tied a career-high and his 82 tackles established a new career mark. Against the Eagles in week 12, Morgan set a personal single-game high with 13 tackles.
He was one of the highest rated outside linebackers available in free agency due to his production and experience in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses.
Newly-signed linebackers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan sign their contracts at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn, Jeff Harding)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys were among teams with serious interest in Morgan's services. A fresh start, however, wasn't in the cards for Morgan, who says he wants to finish what he started in Tennessee.
"That would be so much more satisfying," said Morgan. "It's easy to leave the building and go get on a winning team. No one would have faulted me for that, but I feel like this league changes year to year. There's no question a 2-14 team one season can be a playoff team the next. We've got some good pieces in place and I feel like we have the chance to be successful."
Morgan's first four NFL seasons were spent as a defensive end in a 4-3 defense. He compared the transition to a 3-4 scheme in 2014 like "speaking Spanish on the football field."
He had an opportunity to go back to the defensive line and a 4-3 defense, but decided against it.
One season in and the idea of remaining an outside linebacker had grown on him – the added responsibility and importance of the position are big reasons why. Production from outside linebackers is paramount in a 3-4 defense. They need to be able to get to the quarterback consistently, while also being able keep up with tight ends and running backs in coverage.
Morgan wants to be that guy for the Titans.
"People asked me what I thought about a 3-4 system and I loved it," he said. "I might be more comfortable in a 4-3 defense since I played in it for so long, but last year I felt like I had more potential to be a better player. It's one of those things that I want to keep working at. I like the position within the scheme.
"I have a lot of upside and untapped potential left in this position," Morgan continued. "I started getting more comfortable as last season went on. I feel like it's going to be a great year for me personally and hopefully a better year as a team."
Tennessee's pair of freshly-signed pass rushers crossed paths in the team's executive conference room, exchanging a handshake and sentiments as they look forward to working together. The defense will likely go as they go next season, a responsibility both Morgan and Orakpo are eager to accept.
"I think it's going to be a great situation. I'm excited," Morgan said of having Orakpo as a teammate. "You already know what he brings to the table. I respect his game a lot."
Morgan started his day Friday with a workout. Tomorrow he'll do the same. The only difference is that now he knows where he'll be playing football next season.
"I'm excited get back to business," he said. "It's time to start winning."