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Saints trade Ricky Williams to Miami

DAVIE, Florida (AP) _ The New Orleans Saints traded running back Ricky Williams to the Miami Dolphins Friday, three years after the Saints gave up all eight of their draft picks to acquire the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner.

In return, the Saints will get a first-round choice in 2002 and a third-rounder in 2003 that could escalate to a first-rounder if Williams rushes for 1,500 yards this year.

``That would lead the league and put him in the Pro Bowl and hopefully put us in the Super Bowl,'' Miami coach Dave Wannstedt said.

The NFL teams also swapped fourth-round selections in next month's draft, allowing the Dolphins to move up 11 spots.

``We never like to trade good football players, but this was a deal that we felt like we couldn't pass up,'' Saints general manager Randy Mueller said.

Williams was a highly touted running back in the 1999 draft, and Mike Ditka, then the Saints' coach, bent over backwards to obtain him.

When in college, Williams set 20 NCAA rushing records, including career yardage. He didn't perform badly in New Orleans, topping 1,000 yards the past two seasons. But he says he didn't hit it off with Jim Haslett, who became the coach in 2000.

They'll no longer have to worry about the prickly issue of Williams' contract. The eight-year deal, negotiated by rapper Master P.'s agency after the Saints made Williams the No. 5 pick in 1999, contains large incentives but low base salaries, including just dlrs 350,000 this season.

The 24-year-old Williams declined to discuss his contract and said he's delighted to join Miami. He'll be in town Monday.

``The biggest thing is I'm going to a place where we're going to win right away, and I'm going to be a part of that,'' Williams said. ``That's all you can really ask for.''

New Orleans took running back Deuce McAllister in the first round of the draft a year ago.

``Ricky did everything we asked over the last two years,'' Haslett said. ``We didn't make this move without considering every angle. But we have spots on our roster that we are trying to improve, and we have a good, young player in McAllister who needs to be on the field.''

Williams gives the Dolphins their best running threat since the days of Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick. Quarterback Dan Marino turned them into a passing team for nearly 20 years, but third-and-1 no longer looks quite so difficult.

``All first downs this year,'' Wannstedt said with a smile.
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