Two months after breaking off negotiations, the Redskins are again considering signing former St. Louis Cardinal halfback Terry Metcalf, who approached the club last week, apparently with reduced contract demands.

General Manager Bobby Beathard confirmed yesterday that Washington was contemplating dealing with Metcalf again as long as his rights could be obtained from St. Louis for what Beathard termed reasonable compensation. b

That compensation, however, remains a major stumbling block.

The Cardinals, according to league sources, have demanded a third-round draft choice from any team signing Metcalf, who has played the last two seasons with Toronto of the Canadian Football League.

The Redskins do not have a third-round pick in this year's draft. They also believe that is too much to surrender for Metcalf, who enjoyed mixed success in the Canadian league. It was learned that Washington would like to give up a medium-round selection, probably in the six-through-eight range.

"There are a lot of things that have to be worked out but things have changed from where they stood two months ago," Beathard said. "We would be interested in Terry, but only under the right terms for us. We are going to be very careful about giving up any choices from now on, unless we think we are really helping the club."

The Redskins have been trying for two years to acquire a player who would fill their need for a breakaway threat in the backfield. Metcalf is a natural, not only because of his skills but also because new Coach Joe Gibbs worked with him in St. Louis and likes him. Metcalf lives in the Washington area during the offseason, works out occasionally at Redskin Park and has let it be known he wants to be a Redskin.

Washington had ended talks with Metcalf after deciding it could not meet his contract demands, believed to be in the $250,000-a-year range.

But Metcalf and his lawyer-agent, Richard Bennett, apparently have reduced the asking price considerably. It is likely that they are willing to sacrifice some salary in hopes of making up the lost revenue by exceeding incentive clauses in any contract Metcalf might sign.

That approach is more in line with Washington's thinking. Sources say the Redskins aren't certain how good Metcalf is at this stage of his pro career. That's why they thought it was inappropriate to commit themselves to a large annual salary and then find out he had lost a step. But they would be more receptive to a contract that rewarded Metcalf in large part if he was productive on the field.

Metcalf was a star in the mid-1970s with the Cardinals, but then signed a long-term contract with Toronto, starting in 1978. Bennett has said that he has worked out an agreement with Toronto that allows Metcalf to negotiate with NFL teams.

The Redskins would like to complete any deal, including one involving Metcalf, before the draft April 28. That way, they would have a firm grasp of their needs so they can best utilize their high choices. If they do not sign a running back before then, it seems certain they will try to select a halfback with their first- or second-round pick.