Redskins likely to drop Morton

The Washington Redskins apparently aren’t ready to give up on linebacker Mike Barrow just yet, but return man Chad Morton could be on his way out when the post-June 1 period of free agency opens late today.

Although Redskins officials remain mum about their plans, a source familiar with the club’s thinking said Barrow likely won’t be released until the team gets a better gauge on his rehabilitation from acute tendinitis in his knee.

Barrow, who signed a six-year, $15.1 million deal last spring but didn’t play a down in 2004, is in Arizona trying to build strength in his atrophied leg. There has been considerable speculation he would be released this week, but that apparently isn’t the plan.

The cut certainly could come later, though, because his return is by no means assured. For now Redskins officials seem willing to take a closer look if and when he gets healthy.

Morton might not get that chance. Still rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in October, Morton seems likely to exit in coming days. The move would be a bit surprising because it offers the Redskins relatively little savings ($540,000) compared to what they could gain by releasing Barrow ($1.74 million).

Washington needs salary cap space at some point this summer to sign first-round draft picks Carlos Rogers and Jason Campbell. Cutting Morton won’t be enough, but the Redskins also will part with wide receiver Rod Gardner (a $2.1 million savings) at some point in coming months.

Morton was signed away from the New York Jets as a restricted free agent in 2003, a move that involved a high-profile arbitration case. In Washington, his production has been modest. He tied for 10th in the NFL in kickoff returns (23.4 yards) in 2003, scoring one touchdown, but fell to just 22.4 yards last season. On punts, he never looked comfortable.

The Redskins apparently are prepared to move forward with other options in the return game. Ladell Betts led Washington with a 23.0-yard average last season on kickoffs, while Antonio Brown (8.9 yards) and James Thrash (8.5) both put up solid numbers on punts.

In addition, Washington remains in the hunt for cornerback R.W. McQuarters, who has done well returning kicks. McQuarters was believed to be visiting the Miami Dolphins yesterday after taking trips to Washington and the New York Giants last week. It is unclear whether he has others scheduled.

The post-June 1 period, which technically begins after the NFL’s close-of-business at 4 p.m. today, permits teams to shed big contracts in a cap-friendly way. League-wide, there are expected to be fewer post-June 1 cuts this year because clubs have become better about managing the salary cap.

Note — The Redskins signed running back Jonathan Combs, an undrafted rookie out of Texas College who tried out at the recent rookie minicamp. Combs takes the roster spot of safety Cory Hall, who abruptly quit the team Thursday after signing two days earlier.

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