For the four years he was a member of the Saints, wide receiver Joseph Morgan handled various difficult situations that confronted him as gracefully as he could.
He did not break character just because the Saints cut him Tuesday. On Wednesday, Morgan released a statement thanking both the Saints for allowing him to fulfill his childhood dream of playing professional football and New Orleans for “having the most loyal fans in the NFL.”
“My tenure with the New Orleans Saints was filled with many positive memories and experiences that have helped me mature both as a man and as a professional,” Morgan said in his statement. “I truly value the relationships that were cultivated during my time here, and (New Orleans) will always have a place in my heart.”
Acquired as an undrafted rookie in 2011, Morgan didn’t touch the ball often with the Saints; but when he did, the result was usually a big play. He had only 14 catches and two rushes in the 19 games he suited out for the Saints — but he had three touchdown grabs, 471 receiving yards and 68 rushing yards. That equates to a mind-boggling 33.7 yards per touch.
Yet Morgan’s waiver on Tuesday concluded what’s been a difficult stint for him in New Orleans. The alum of Walsh University (an NAIA program in his hometown of Canton, Ohio) missed his entire rookie season and all of what would’ve been his third year as a pro in 2013 with knee injuries.
He was arrested during the 2013 offseason on suspicion of drunken driving and entered a diversion program offering him the opportunity to avoid prosecution in exchange for submitting to monitoring, counseling and other social services. Then, this season, he was suspended for two games for an undisclosed violation of team regulations.
That suspension followed Morgan’s being inactive for five of the Saints’ first seven games this season by decision of the coaching staff.
However, when he was on the field and healthy, Morgan could be a dangerous weapon. He showed that in 2012 by registering 379 receiving yards and three touchdowns on just 10 catches. This year, a 67-yard run off an end-around in a defeat to the Ravens on Nov. 24 is the Saints’ longest rush as of Wednesday.
Morgan also had a 62-yard catch in the loss to the Ravens. Morgan didn’t catch a pass for the Saints in a Nov. 30 win at Pittsburgh or in a 41-10 rout to Carolina in New Orleans a week later.
The Saints let Morgan go two days after the 31-point loss to the Panthers.
In his statement Wednesday, Morgan — a father to two young girls — spoke about preparing to transition into the next chapter of his career. However, he said he still wanted to help the community of New Orleans out at least one more time: by going through with a toy drive he had previously scheduled for Saturday at Lakeside Mall in Metairie from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. He pleaded with supporters of his and the Saints to donate items at the event, which will be held near the Macy’s store in the mall and will benefit children whose parents are in economic need.
Morgan has been open about how his girls motivate him to give back to the communities he’s a part of whenever he can. And his family members have also gone on record about how he’s driven to be the best dad he can be to his daughters because he was 4 when his father was fatally shot in Canton.
“One of the greatest things I’ve learned during this process is that there more to life than just football,” Morgan said Wednesday. “That’s why it is my intent to carry on with my ... toy drive, which will put smiles on the faces of hundreds of kids and assist struggling parents during some ... difficult economic times.”
The 31 other NFL teams had until Wednesday afternoon to put in a claim to add Morgan to their roster. But no team did.
Morgan is now free to sign with any team in the NFL.
The Saints have not filled the roster spot created by Morgan’s waiver. On the team’s practice squad are undrafted rookie receivers Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones — both are possible candidates for promotion to the Saints’ 53-man roster.
The remaining receivers on New Orleans’ roster on Wednesday were Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, Nick Toon, Robert Meachem and Jalen Saunders.
Stills leads that group in catches (47) and receiving yards (714). Colston is second with 46 catches for 706 yards. Both Colston and Stills have three touchdown receptions.
Toon this year has nine catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Saunders is handling the punt return duties left vacant by receiver Brandin Cooks, whose season ended after he broke his thumb in a Nov. 16 loss to Cincinnati.
Meachem has five catches for 85 yards. But he has been inactive the Saints’ last five games. He was listed on the injury report because of an ankle issue prior to four of those contests.