AS THE RUNNING BACKS TURN

The running back position continues to be the focus of a lot of what is going on with the Dolphins these days.<P>Dolphins officials are still talking to the New Orleans Saints about a deal for Ricky Williams amid reports that the Saints are close to pulling Williams off the market.<P>

The Saints are said to be seeking first- and third-round picks for Williams, which the Dolphins are willing to give only if the Saints throw in a second-rounder in the deal. New Orleans officials don't want to give up that choice, and that has created the stalemate.

There have been reports the Cleveland Browns also are interested in making a deal for Williams, an undeniable talent but a player who is said to not be a favorite of New Orleans coach Jim Haslett.

The Dolphins also might explore the possibility of making a trade for Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, who missed most of last season because of a groin injury. Taylor is among the most talented running backs in the NFL, but he also has been injury-prone throughout his short NFL career.

There's been no indication that Jacksonville is actively pursuing a trade, and it's also not known what it would cost to convince the Jaguars to deal Taylor.

In the Dolphins' own camp, the agent for J.J. Johnson has asked the team to either release or trade him. Johnson was left exposed in the expansion draft, but the Houston Texans decided not to take him.

Johnson's role diminished last season to the point where he was a non-factor, and it's difficult to imagine him having much of a future with the Dolphins. By the same token, the Dolphins will be hard-pressed to get much for him in a trade.

"As of now, J.J. is on our football team and part of it," said Coach Dave Wannstedt. "Whether that stays that way, I don't know. No decision has been made either way."

In other Dolphins news:

-- A decision has been made regarding DT Damien Gregory, and it involved the Dolphins releasing him. The once-promising tackle pretty much ended his Miami career when he got into an argument with defensive line coach Clarence Brooks last year.

-- WR Dedric Ward had surgery on Thursday to stabilize a fracture in his left foot. It's too early to tell whether Ward will be able to take part in the post-draft minicamps.

-- The Dolphins made tender offers to restricted free agent Jed Weaver and exclusive-rights free agents Trent Gamble and Adewale Ogunleye. That means the Dolphins will be able to match any offer made to Weaver or receive a seventh-round pick as compensation, while Gamble and Ogunleye can't negotiate with any other team.

-- The Dolphins signed former CFL players Darnell McDonald, a wide receiver from Kansas State, and Dario Romero, a defensive tackle from Eastern Washington.


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