The Jacksonville Jaguars desperately wanted a middle linebacker in the NFL draft. They had to trade for one and ended up with an established starter.
One day after failing to land Penn State linebacker Sean Lee in the second round, the Jaguars traded a fourth-round pick (No. 108) to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for linebacker Kirk Morrison and a fifth-round selection (No. 153) on Saturday.
Morrison, who led Oakland in tackles the past four seasons, became expendable to the Raiders after they drafted Alabama star Rolando McClain in the first round Thursday.
"There wasn't room for two of us," Morrison said. "I knew that. When you draft a guy No. 8 overall, regardless of how long I've been there, you pretty much give him the keys to the car and the reins to the football team to be your starting middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme."
Morrison, who recently signed a one-year tender worth $2.51 million this season, will step right into the middle of Jacksonville's defense. His arrival will allow Daryl Smith and Justin Durant to play outside and probably send Clint Ingram to the bench.
"For me, it's a new beginning," Morrison said. "I feel like I was drafted all over again."
The deal is the latest in the Jaguars' aggressive plan to retool a defense that ranked 23rd in the NFL last season and finished with a franchise-low and NFL-worst 14 sacks.
The Jaguars signed free-agent defensive end Aaron Kampman, released aging lineman Rob Meier and traded underachieving end Quentin Groves to the Raiders. The draft brought even more activity along the defensive front, with Jacksonville selecting Tyson Alualu in the first round and D'Anthony Smith in the third. The team also added defensive talent with its two fifth-round picks, Central Arkansas end Larry Hart and Murray State end Austen Lane.
"We wanted to rebuild the defense this year," said Terry McDonough, the team's director of player personnel. "We felt, watching the defense last year, we needed speed up front on defense. We've done that, acquiring multiple defensive tackles, multiple defensive ends. We're going to be very young up front, very active, very fast. We're very excited about the prospects we have to rebuild our defense up front."
Many draft analysts and fans considered Jacksonville's early picks reaches, but Morrison is much more of a known commodity. A third-round pick from San Diego State in 2005, Morrison has started 79 of 80 games in five seasons. He has 631 tackles, six forced fumbles and five sacks.
The Jaguars tried to trade up to take Lee on Friday, and they spoke with the Philadelphia Eagles about packaging some picks in exchange for the 55th overall selection. However, the Eagles ended up trading with the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys, who took Lee at that spot.
Jaguars general manager Gene Smith then turned his attention to Morrison. It was the second trade with Oakland this week. The Jaguars received a fifth-rounder from the Raiders on Wednesday in exchange for defensive end/linebacker Quentin Groves.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press