Morgan Fox played 30 snaps against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12, the most he’s had this season. But even if it is the most, Fox’s 42% snaps is only a hair above his season average of 38% and he has consistently been a presence on the LA Rams’ defensive line since Week 1.
In fact, since Week 1 of the 2019 season.
After missing all of 2018, Fox has played in the last 27 games for the Rams and he had three tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery in LA’s loss to the 49ers on Sunday. As the Rams have turned over so many defensive positions in the last three years, only Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, John Johnson, Samson Ebukam and Fox remain as regulars from the 2017 defense. Donald and Brockers are signed next season, but Johnson is likely to be too expensive to retain and LA drafted two safeties in 2020 to prepare for his departure.
The team may have options to retain either Ebukam or Fox, and while I’ve observed little support to bring back the former, there hasn’t even been a discussion about the latter.
Is it possible that Morgan Fox will be seen as an underrated free agent signing for some team other than the Rams?
Fox had knee surgery in 2018 but returned last season to record 18 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for a loss under Wade Phillips. He has had a career-year under Brandon Staley, recording 19 tackles, three sacks and five QB hits in 11 games. His numbers are not going to jump out at anyone reading the leaderboards and some teams may be skeptical of how he will play when not next to Donald, but Fox is only 26 and other GMs may be attracted to the fact that the former undrafted free agent has spent five seasons with the NFL’s best defensive player.
Donald has not hesitated to endorse Fox either.
The Rams re-signed Fox to a one-year deal in 2020 for under $1 million but this season could pay off for him by proving to be an adequate 3-4 defensive end. Consider players like Danny Shelton, who entered free agency last year after four underwhelming seasons before having a career-season with the New England Patriots: 61 tackles, three sacks, six QB hits and he was roughly the same age as Fox.
Shelton signed with the Detroit Lions for two years and $8 million.
It is possible that the Lions overpaid because they’re the Lions and Shelton is a former first round pick, but the Atlanta Falcons also extended defensive lineman Tyeler Davison to a three-year, $12 million contract and he has roughly the same pedigree and a similar career to Fox.
It would not surprise me to see Fox land a deal in the $4 million per year range and even if that isn’t relatively expensive (not in the top-50 for interior defensive linemen), it could be too rich for the Rams. The team has locked in Donald, Brockers and A’Shawn Robinson, while Greg Gaines continues to gain experience alongside them.
Fox deserved no less than his own post acknowledging his efforts and season.