Dealing from a position of apparent strength on defense, the Green Bay Packers have shored up a position group that has been hit hard by injuries this offseason. The inside linebackers have seen one veteran would-be starter go down with a torn ACL — Jake Ryan — and his likely replacement, rookie Oren Burks, suffer a shoulder injury in warmups this weekend.
Enter Antonio Morrison, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts. Michael Cohen of The Athletic is reporting that the Packers have acquired Morrison via trade, in exchange for cornerback Lenzy Pipkins. This indicates that the injury to Burks is fairly serious, though no details have yet emerged.
With the addition of two early draft picks and a veteran free agent at cornerback, Pipkins had been pushed down to the third-team in training camp this summer and had become a long shot to make the Packers’ final roster. As an undrafted rookie, Pipkins made the team out of camp in 2017, played in 12 regular season games, and recorded 14 tackles and one pass breakup.
Morrison is a two-year NFL veteran who was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft (125th overall). He started four games as a rookie before taking over as a full-time starter in 2017, when he recorded 108 total tackles and one pass breakup. At Florida, Morrison started for two full seasons and parts of a third, culminating in a senior season where he recorded 96 total tackles, 11 for loss, and 2.5 sacks.
After suffering a knee injury in Florida’s bowl game in his final season, Morrison attended the 2016 Combine but did not work out due a combination of that injury and a staph infection. He posted very underwhelming numbers at Florida’s Pro Day (5.0 in the 40-yard dash and 4.65 in the short shuttle), but that came just days after being cleared from the hospital following treatment for the infection.
In addition, his history in Gainesville has red flags both in terms of injury — suffering another knee injury after his junior season — and off the field, as he was once arrested for punching a bouncer and another for “barking at a police dog” and resisting arrest.
However, former Colts GM Ryan Grigson, who drafted Morrison, gave an amusing answer about what he looked for in draft picks: “Dogs.” Hopefully Morrison plays like one instead of barking like one on the field.
Like Pipkins, Morrison had fallen down the depth chart this summer. New Colts GM Chris Ballard drafted three linebackers in April, including second-round pick Darius Leonard, and undrafted rookie linebacker Skai Moore has been starting next to Leonard in the preseason. Morrison likely found himself on the outside looking in, making this a sensible swap for both teams.
Morrison will likely compete for a job with Ahmad Thomas and Greer Martini over the final week of the preseason.