<span>The New Orleans Saints continued to reshape their defensive composition with the team's announcement of the signing of LB Dan Morgan on Friday.
Morgan's signing represents the fourth new face that the Black-and-Gold has made to their defense in the past week alone, as the Saints began their defensive makeover by first acquiring LB Jonathan Vilma via a trade, and then followed with the announcements of their signings of unrestricted free agents CB Randall Gay and DE Bobby McCray. The Saints also recently inked the services of LB Mark Simoneau and DT Brian Young to their defense, both of whom have been key members of the Saints' defensive efforts the past two seasons under Head Coach Sean Payton and Defensive Coordinator Gary Gibbs.
The addition of Morgan, a player the team knows well from having faced him numerous times as a member of the NFC South's Carolina Panthers from 2001-2007, represents the addition of a playmaking and tackling defender who has averaged nearly eight tackles a game throughout his career. He was named as a starter for the 2004 NFC Pro Bowl squad after registering a career-high 109 tackles. Morgan was released by the Panthers prior to the start of free agency, perhaps the result of having missed portions of the last two seasons due to two separate, non-related health issues.
But the fact remains that when healthy, Morgan has proven to be one of the top playmaking linebackers in the NFL. The hard-hitting and versatile defender has shown a knack for being around the football and being a disruptive and heady player, as evidenced by his ancillary statistics, which display forced fumbles (four), fumble recoveries (five), passes defensed (18), interceptions (five) and sacks (seven).
The first-round draft pick in 2001 by the Panthers (11th overall), Morgan's 59 career regular season starts represent the most for by a linebacker in Carolina's team annals, while his 452 tackles rank third in the Panthers' record books. The 6-2, 245-pound Morgan was the first linebacker selected in the 2001 NFL Draft after having served as a team captain his final three seasons while with the nationally-ranked Miami Hurricanes.
Morgan, who has played the majority of his professional career in the middle of the linebacking corps, possesses the type of athleticism that could allow him to easily transition to an outside spot in the Saints' patrol. The product of the University of Miami became the first player in college football history to garner the Butkus Award (top linebacker), Bednarik Award and Nagurski Award (top defensive player) in the same season, and played outside for his first three seasons as a collegian before moving to the middle linebacker spot as a senior.
In postseason play during his career, the native of Coral Springs, Fla. has started all seven games that he has appeared in and notched 76 tackles, one interception as well as a pass defensed. He registered a career-high 25 tackles against the New England Patriots on February 1, 2004 in Super Bowl XXXVIII.