Veteran return man had three years left on contract

Updated: June 3, 2005, 2:47 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The second shoe fell, with a deafening thud, for the Morton family on Friday afternoon.

In a move rumored for weeks, the Washington Redskins terminated the contract of five-year veteran return specialist Chad Morton, who played in only six games in 2004 after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The move came just one day after the Kansas City Chiefs released older brother Johnnie Morton, an 11-year veteran wide receiver.

Chad Morton
C. Morton
Chad Morton, 28, had three years remaining on his contract, at base salaries of $540,000 (2005), $1.8 million (2006) and $2 million (2007).

That he lasted only two seasons in Washington is ironic, given what Washington had to go through to land Morton, who appeared in just 21 games in a Redskins uniform, and who never really made a significant special teams impact. With the Redskins, Morton averaged 23.1 yards, and scored one touchdown, on 60 kickoff returns. He handled 28 punt returns for a 9.6-yard average and no touchdowns.

Washington signed Morton to a five-year offer sheet in 2003, when he was a restricted free agent with the New York Jets. After deliberating the deal, the Jets subsequently matched the offer. But Morton filed a grievance, contending the Jets did not match all of the terms of the offer sheet, and an arbitrator ruled in his favor.

The Redskins ended up sending a fifth-round pick to the Jets as compensation.

Morton, who is still recovering from knee surgery, seemed to sense earlier this spring that he might be a post-June 1 salary cap casualty. His physical status was certainly a factor in his release but the Redskins also have a number of players, such as Santana Moss and James Thrash, capable of handling the return chores.

"I don't even know if I'm going to be playing here," Morton acknowledged earlier in the offseason, when asked about his future with the Redskins. "I don't know what's in store."

The former Southern California standout entered the league with the New Orleans Saints in 2000 as a fifth-round draft choice. He was traded to the Jets the following year, and then signed the Redskins offer sheet in 2003.

For his career, Morton has appeared in 62 games. He has averaged 24.0 yards and scored three times on 174 kickoff returns, and also averaged 9.0 yards on 79 punt returns. In addition, Morton, who figures to draw interest from several teams when he is healthy, has 88 carries for 360 yards and 48 catches for 419 yards.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.

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