As expected, K.C. sheds receiver, gains cap room
In a move that has been rumored for weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday terminated the contract of wide receiver Johnnie Morton, officially making the 11-year veteran the league's first post-June 1 salary cap casualty.
The Chiefs will recoup approximately $2.4 million in salary cap space with the move. Because of prorated signing bonus money, Morton will still count about $785,000 in so-called "dead money" on the Kansas City salary cap for 2005. He was under contract for four more seasons, at base salaries of $3 million (2005), $3.5 million (2006), $4 million (2007) and $5 million (2008).
Kansas City officials recently broached to Morton the possibility of restructuring his contract for 2005, but he rebuffed those advances. The team then requested that Morton not participate in its offseason activities.
Coach Dick Vermeil said earlier this week that he had not spoken to Morton in a few weeks. The Chiefs are apparently confident that some of their younger wide receivers, most notably second-year veteran Samie Parker, are ready to take on expanded roles.
"We appreciate Johnnie Morton's effort during his tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs," team president Carl Peterson said in a statement. "We wish him the best in the future."
In three seasons with the Chiefs, Morton, signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2002, caught 134 passes for 1,932 yards and eight touchdowns in 43 appearances that included 42 starts. His average numbers in a Kansas City uniform -- 44.7 catches, 644 yards and 2.7 touchdowns -- are hardly reflective of the productive career he has enjoyed. In 2004, Morton had 55 receptions for 795 yards and three scores.
The former Southern California star, who played his first eight NFL seasons in Detroit, was one of the league's most productive receivers over a five-year stretch with the Lions. Between 1997 and 2001, Morton averaged 73.4 catches, 1,031.2 yards and four scores.
Included in that stretch were four 1,000-yard seasons and also three campaigns in which Morton, one of the NFL's best receivers in terms of adding yards after the catch, had 75 or more receptions. His first season in Kansas City, though, produced just 29 receptions, and his tenure there was largely disappointing.
A first-round choice in the 1994 draft, Morton has played in 169 games and started in 148 of them. He has 603 receptions for 8,431 yards and 43 touchdowns.
This could be a tough stretch for the Morton family, as it has been widely rumored that younger brother Chad Morton, a kickoff return specialist for Washington, also might be an eventual cap casualty. Chad Morton is recovering from a knee injury, and Redskins officials said they would not make any Thursday roster moves.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .
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