Most Wanted - Chad Morton

One way or another, Chad Morton will return kicks at FedEx Field in next year's Sept. 4 season opener. It remains to be seen for which team. The Redskins signed the restricted free agent to an offer sheet Thursday. But his old team, the Jets, have seven days to match the offer. Washington will open the 2003 season at home against the Jets in a Thursday night game. The rest of the schedule likely will be announced in April.

Morton signed a five-year deal worth $8 million, including a $2.5 million signing bonus. A source close to the Jets had said earlier in the week that he thought New York would match any offer.

But the Redskins hope the size of the bonus, plus two voidable years at the end of the deal, make it hard for New York to keep him.

Morton averaged 26.0 yards per kick return last year, returning two for touchdowns. He has a 24.4 career average. More importantly, he can also return punts, a problem area for Washington last year. Morton has returned 47 career punts for a 9.4-yard average.

For the Redskins, the latter is more important: the Redskins feel they could live with last year's kick returners--but not the punt returns. And one thing's for certain: Champ Bailey won't return punts next year. With Morton, though, they'd have one player to do both. For a team that must maximize its dollar, that's vital.

If New York lets Morton go, the Redskins would surrender a fifth-round pick in this year's draft as compensation. Washington re-worked a deal with New England to improve its fifth-round choice obtained earlier in the week; the Redskins now have a pick that originally belonged to Dallas. To sign a restricted free agent, a team must give up its own fifth-round pick, or one that is better.

The teams now will swap third-round picks to complete the deal; Washington also sent New England a fourth-round pick in 2004.

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