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Packers waive ILB Antonio Morrison before free agency begins

The fourth-year linebacker was due to get a big raise this season.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers Appleton Post Crescent-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Green Bay Packers have made their first subtraction from the team’s roster in advance of the start of free agency next week. On Friday evening, the team waived inside linebacker Antonio Morrison, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.

Morrison was a late addition to the Packers’ roster in 2018, coming over from the Indianapolis Colts in a trade that sent cornerback Lenzy Pipkins to Indy. Morrison played a significant role on the Packers’ defense in 2018, participating in all 16 games and starting eight of them, though he only played about 30% of the team’s overall snaps on defense. He totaled 48 tackles, five for losses, and added a sack. Morrison’s downhill, hard-hitting style was a good fit for the defense on running downs, but he left much to be desired in pass coverage, which was the primary reason why he did not earn more playing time.

One potential reason for Morrison’s release is the fact that he was due to receive a significant raise in 2019. Because he played in over 35% of his teams’ defensive snaps in his first three seasons — largely due to a 75% snap share for the Colts in 2017 — Morrison qualified for the proven performance escalator. That would have increased his base salary from $720,000 to about $2 million.

This decision likely comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. With the Packers unlikely to use Morrison in a significant role on defense next season — Oren Burks is expected to see more snaps at the second inside linebacker position — a $2 million price tag for a special-teams only player was likely deemed too steep.

If Morrison clears waivers, he will be free to sign with any team immediately.