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Redskins Still Look To Trade Gardner

By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 12, 2005; Page D03

After officially trading Laveranues Coles on Wednesday following a drawn-out process, the Washington Redskins hope to soon deal their other starting wide receiver, Rod Gardner, to the highest bidder.

This week, Coach Joe Gibbs said Washington is willing to keep Gardner if the club isn't satisfied with the return. And according to sources familiar with the situation, Gardner hasn't yet been dealt partly because Washington has been choosy about offers.

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Gardner's Miami-based agent, Joel Segal -- who didn't return calls yesterday -- has been given permission to strike a deal, pending Washington's approval.

The Redskins desire no less than a middle-round pick -- preferably a third-rounder -- in the 2005 draft. But after Gardner -- the 15th player overall drafted in 2001 -- and the Redskins reached a mutual decision to part ways, his departure appears inevitable. And the salary cap has become another impetus.

The Redskins are $2.1 million under the cap, said a source familiar with the club's money situation, after not re-signing linebacker Antonio Pierce and cornerback Fred Smoot. Trading Gardner would double the cap space, suddenly providing substantial flexibility. Gibbs hasn't ruled out signing other free agents, including players eventually released this offseason.

The Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks are Gardner's most likely destinations, but sources said that other teams have inquired. According to a source, a complexity is Gardner reaching an understanding with his next team on an extension. Gardner is in the final year of his rookie contract and is scheduled to earn about $2 million.

Redskins Note: Coles said this week that his reluctance to have toe surgery stems from the risk of permanent damage. Before being traded, Coles rebuffed the Redskins' suggestion to undergo an operation. Coles fractured his right big toe in the third game of the 2003 season, and has played with the injury since. The Redskins believe that there is a correlation between the ailment and Coles's decreased yards-per-catch (a career-low 10.6 last season). But Coles believes the explosiveness that made him a deep-threat earlier in his career remains, in the right system.

"The doctor said it's not a guarantee that I'll be the same player after I have surgery. That's why I don't want to have surgery," Coles said Tuesday. "It's a big risk. I'm still productive the way I am, especially with peace of mind. I was miserable and I caught 90 balls. So all I can say is wait until next season and judge if I need the toe surgery."

After detailing his unhappiness in Washington, Coles has since softened his stance in New York. Gibbs declined to expound on Coles's side of the story, including the contention that owner Daniel Snyder threatened him for initially derailing the trade. "In the end, we felt like what we did was for the best and it did work out," Gibbs said. "We wish L.C. the best."

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