- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

The Washington Redskins extended another lucrative offer sheet to a restricted free agent yesterday, hoping that their perceived value of the player is higher than that of his current team.

Washington signed New York Jets return man Chad Morton to an offer sheet valued at nearly $8 million for five years, NFL sources said. It included a generous $2.5 million signing bonus. The offer came two days after the Redskins signed Green Bay safety Matt Bowen to an offer sheet.

Washington projects Morton as a kickoff and punt returner, a contributor in other areas of special teams and possibly a change-of-pace running back or wide receiver. The multiple roles are what interested Morton in the Redskins so much and what justified such a big signing bonus in their minds.

The Jets have until 4 p.m. Thursday to determine whether that bonus is too steep for the role they project for Morton pretty much as a kickoff returner. New York already has Santana Moss to return punts; any other roles for Morton are unclear at this point, but the club doesn't seem to have planned any expansion of his duties.

A similar difference-of-role logic governs the Redskins' hopes of acquiring Bowen, who is the third or fourth safety with the Packers but would start at free safety in Washington. The club offered Bowen a four-year, $6 million deal with a $1.6 million signing bonus.

In both instances, the bonus is large, but the early hits against the salary cap aren't too bad. Morton is set to receive the minimum salaries for the first three years, so even in 2005 his cap figure would be just $1.04 million. This year's hit would be $950,000, or $345,000 more than the Jets' tender offer ($605,000).

Bowen's first-year cap figure is $850,000, high for a reserve safety but not too far above the tender amount. However, indications are that Green Bay is unlikely to match Bowen's offer sheet. The team has until 4 p.m. Tuesday to do so.

The Redskins would owe draft pick compensation in each case if the team declines to match the offer sheet. For Morton, it's a fifth-round pick; for Bowen, a sixth-rounder.

Washington finally acquired a fifth-round selection from New England yesterday, though the trade was somewhat different from the one announced Monday. Some confusion over compensation needs held up the deal, NFL sources said.

In the initial trade, the Redskins offered a seventh-round pick this year and a fourth-round selection next year. But New England had two fifth-round picks (fifth and 22nd). Washington had agreed to trade for the No. 22 pick but didn't realize that it wouldn't be allowed as compensation.

NFL rules stipulate that an acquired pick must be as high as a team's original pick in a round to be used as compensation. The Redskins were supposed to pick ninth in the fifth round before trading the selection to Detroit for guard Brenden Stai.

To complete the deal for the higher pick, the Redskins had to sweeten their offer. Yesterday's deal had Washington sending its 2004 fourth-round pick and swapping spots in this year's third round (dropping from 11th to 17th) in exchange for New England's fifth-round selection.

The offer sheet for Morton extended the Redskins' extremely busy start to the league year. He and Bowen could become the club's 10th and 11th pickups since free agency and the trading period began last Friday, and the team is looking at other possibilities, too.

Foremost among those players is wide receiver Kevin Dyson, who was scheduled to visit Carolina yesterday. Washington visited with Dyson on Tuesday night and Wednesday and hopes to sign him soon. But it remains possible that Dyson could re-sign with Tennessee, where he has spent all five of his NFL seasons.

The Redskins also have contacted Patrick Johnson, another speed receiver. The club is expected to add a reserve defensive tackle in the near future, as well.

One Redskins free agent, running back Stephen Davis, was visiting Carolina. Davis was in Houston earlier this week. Wide receiver Derrius Thompson was in Philadelphia after earlier trips to Miami and Minnesota; next up is Buffalo on Monday and possibly Tampa Bay later.

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