- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2001

The Washington Redskins yesterday moved closer to acquiring a backup New Orleans Saints running back, likely Chad Morton, for one or more draft picks. A deal could be announced today.

Morton, 24, started three games for the Saints last season, rushing for 136 yards and catching 30 passes for 213 yards. A fifth-round draft pick out of Southern California in 2000, he became expendable when New Orleans used its first-round pick on highly touted Mississippi back Deuce McAllister.

Saints general manager Randy Mueller confirmed the trade talks, saying, "We have an extra running back, and [the Redskins] let it be known that they are looking for one." Mueller said the talks do not involve McAllister or Williams.

The acquisition of Morton would fill the role vacated in early May when the Redskins rescinded their tender offer to Skip Hicks, who later signed with the Chicago Bears. Hicks, who slumped after setting a Redskins rookie record with eight rushing touchdowns in 1998, was let go to make salary cap room for fullback Donnell Bennett.

Morton showed tremendous versatility at Southern California, where he played under current Redskins running back coach Hue Jackson, at the time the Trojans' offensive coordinator. There Morton played tailback, wide receiver, free safety and cornerback, and returned kickoffs and punts. Here he could compete against veteran Michael Bates to return punts.

There is a remote possibility the Redskins could look at Saints rusher Fred McAfee, though McAfee's age (33) makes Morton a far more attractive candidate.

Morton would become the Redskins' 84th player, maxing out their roster heading into training camp. His signing would consume an additional $90,000 of cap space, leaving Washington with enough room to sign perhaps another running back, fourth-round quarterback Sage Rosenfels and fifth-round receiver Darnerian McCants.

The Redskins will have to jettison Deion Sanders or renegotiate veterans' contracts to sign first-round receiver Rod Gardner and second-round cornerback Fred Smoot.

Meanwhile, former St. Louis Rams safety Keith Lyle has been told through agent Brad Blank to be ready to join the Redskins if one of their three young players David Terrell, Josh Symonette and Ifeanyi Ohalete cannot win the starting free safety job.

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