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Redskins Likely to Release Coles

Unhappy in Gibbs's Offense, Team's Top Receiver Expresses Desire to Leave

By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 21, 2005; Page D01

Washington Redskins wide receiver Laveranues Coles has had at least two extensive conversations with Coach Joe Gibbs since the season ended which are expected to lead to his release from the team, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Sources said last night that Gibbs, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and Roosevelt Barnes, the agent for Coles, have reached an oral agreement that will likely lead to his release, making the 27-year-old wideout an unrestricted free agent.

Unhappy in Joe Gibbs's ball-control offense, Laveranues Coles averaged a career-low 10.6 yards per catch and caught one touchdown, an option pass from Clinton Portis. (Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)

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Coles met privately with Gibbs at Redskins Park to express his unhappiness with the offense and a desire to leave the club.

Gibbs has acknowledged meeting twice with Coles, including earlier this month, but he turned reticent and cryptic when asked about the possibility of Coles's departure.

"We had a couple of good talks. That's the only statement I want to make," Gibbs said last week. "Me and Laveranues talked, and we have a good understanding."

Coles caught a career-best 90 passes last season, the third-most in franchise history behind Art Monk. Yet the five-year veteran became frustrated by the lack of a deep passing game. The Redskins finished with the 30th-ranked offense in the league, and Gibbs's ball-control philosophy coupled with a 6-10 record made Coles miserable, said one person with knowledge of the situation.

Gibbs, who also serves as team president, intends to accommodate Coles's request instead of keeping a player who prefers to be elsewhere, said two other sources who requested anonymity.

Should Coles be released, one source said, he would return part of his $13 million signing bonus to minimize salary cap ramifications. Tomorrow is the first day that NFL teams are allowed to waive players.

Sources said that late this past season Coles requested a trade after meeting with Snyder and Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato, since they were the two most responsible for acquiring him in 2003. But after discussions with Gibbs, a collective decision was apparently made to waive Coles.

Coles, who has changed his cell phone number, could not be reached for comment. Barnes didn't return several calls last week to his Roanoke, Ind., office. Snyder, through spokesperson Karl Swanson, referred questions to Gibbs. Reached last night, Cerrato declined to comment.

The Redskins signed Coles to a seven-year, $35 million deal as a restricted free agent from the New York Jets. At the time, the $13 million signing bonus was the richest in Redskins history, forcing the Jets to settle for Washington's first-round pick (No. 13 overall) instead of matching it. The Redskins had envisioned the 5-foot-11, 193-pound Coles using his combination of speed and quickness to stretch the field, allowing Rod Gardner to exploit single coverage. In Steve Spurrier's pass-happy offense, Coles responded with 82 catches for 1,204 and six touchdowns. He also made the Pro Bowl.

Gibbs's offense was geared toward tailback Clinton Portis, but the Redskins foresaw Coles posting big numbers because of the need to occasionally go downfield. According to Joe Bugel -- Washington's assistant head coach of offense -- Coles had the third-most passes in the NFL thrown in his direction.

"The offense was friendly to Laveranues Coles," Bugel said last week. "We fed him."

However, most of the throws were intermediate passes and screens designed for Coles to gain yards after the catch. Coles averaged a career-low 10.6 yards per catch. And his sole touchdown came on a halfback option pass from Clinton Portis.

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