The Ravens have parted ways with 11-year long snapper Morgan Cox, General Manager Eric DeCosta confirmed Monday, and it feels like a breakup that ends with a long hug and tears.
Few (if any) are better than Cox at the unheralded job. Cox was one-third of the Ravens' "Wolfpack" and the place where the operation started, time and time again, without a hitch. Without Cox's almost always on-time and accurate snaps, Justin Tucker wouldn't be the most accurate kicker in NFL history and Sam Koch wouldn't be one of the league's best punters.
Cox got the call from DeCosta last Monday, a couple days after the Ravens' playoff exit. He drove to the Under Armour Performance Center speak with Head Coach John Harbaugh and said goodbye to Ravens staff members. Cox then went to meet Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton, who was celebrating his daughter's birthday. After that, Cox drove to Tucker and Koch's homes to tell them the news.
"I don't know that it's actually, totally, fully set in," Cox said a week later. "To say it was tough wouldn't do it justice. I'm a big bond guy, formed strong bonds in 11 years. It's tough when you've got to tell somebody that it's over."
Cox is a four-time Pro Bowler and when the league added long snapper to this year's All-Pro ballot, Cox became the first honoree.
But as DeCosta said, there's a "circle of life" in the NFL, and the Ravens will move forward with a younger option in Nick Moore.
"You have to continue to get younger as a team," DeCosta told reporters Monday. "We felt that although it was very, very difficult to move on from Morgan, it was probably something that we needed to do long term."
The Ravens kept Moore on their practice squad throughout the year and he snapped in one game when Cox was on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Baltimore reached an agreement with Moore, who has been an understudy of Cox's all season, on a Future/Reserves contract last week.
"It's tough, because in my opinion, Morgan has been really one of the better Ravens over the past 11 years – his attitude, he's overcome some injuries, his performance, just his general demeanor, his ability every single day to come in and be a leader and his attitude and the way he practices, his personality," DeCosta said.
"We've been blessed for many, many years now with 'The Wolfpack,' with Morgan, with Sam, with Justin, to have probably the best combination of punter, long snapper and kicker in the league. And things change. Unfortunately, it's a tough part of this business. But Morgan, his class, his performance, just everything about him, will be missed and cherished in many ways. I think of him as the best long snapper in Baltimore Ravens history. As good as he is as a long snapper, he's a better teammate and a better guy."
Cox, 34, came to the Ravens in 2010 as an undrafted rookie from Tennessee and replaced Matt Katula that season. He signed multiple contract extensions with the team and mentored many young undrafted players the Ravens brought in during various offseasons. He hoped to end his career with Baltimore, but said he'll now look to play for another team.
"I've been feeling really good lately about how I'm snapping. I'm playing well and I've got to trust that I'll get some interest from other teams," Cox said.
"Nick and I are really close. He's someone I consider a really good friend, especially after this weird year everyone went through. When I got the news of it, I was obviously sad that I lost my job, but I remembered back to the day in training camp when I got the news that it was my job. I remembered how excited I was, and I didn't want to detract from that emotion for him."
Only six Ravens have played in more games than Cox, and they're some of the biggest names in franchise history. Cox said that stat "blew his mind" and that he feels "honored to have such a storied history."
"Just with Justin alone, I think we hit 16 game-winners and he's the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Sam has changed the game in punting," Cox said.
Cox played one of the least glamorous positions in the NFL, but in Baltimore, he'll always hold a special place.