The chance that the Washington Redskins took by signing defensive tackle Daryl Gardener this summer has paid off, as Gardener has become a major contributor to the team's improving defense. Now Gardener would like to ensure that he remains with the club, and he and his representative are prepared to open discussions with Redskins officials about extending Gardener's one-year contract.
"I'm doing what these guys are asking me to do," Gardener said yesterday at Redskins Park. "There are no problems. I was going to retire in Miami. That didn't work out, but it wasn't for a lack of what I did on the field. It was just something personal with me and the coach. . . . My whole thing is, I don't want to go through other interviews with teams. If I could just be here, I'll be straight."
Gardener's agent, Neil Schwartz, said he had hoped to meet with Redskins officials this weekend, when he is scheduled to be in town for a family function, but will be unable to do so because the team is playing in Seattle. He said he hopes contract negotiations begin in earnest soon.
"Since the day he met [team owner] Dan Snyder, he's felt he'd like to stay a Washington Redskin," Schwartz said. "The intention was for both sides to have an engagement period, and now we'd like to get married. Everything the Redskins represented to us has come true, and Daryl is ecstatic."
The Redskins appear highly interested in retaining Gardener, 29. Snyder was the catalyst behind the Redskins signing the burly tackle in July after he was released by the Miami Dolphins. It was unclear yesterday, however, how quickly negotiations might progress. Some members of the organization apparently would like to wait until after the season to address the issue. Joe Mendes, the Redskins' vice president of football operations, declined to comment.
Talks between the Redskins and right tackle Jon Jansen about a multiyear contract extension broke off recently even after the two sides made enough progress over a few days of negotiations that they believed a deal was within reach. Jansen, like Gardener, is eligible for unrestricted free agency next offseason. Discussions between the Redskins and tailback Stephen Davis, who likely would be released for salary cap reasons in the offseason without a new contract, also have been on hold.
A contract extension for Gardener likely would have relatively little guaranteed money to protect the Redskins against the possibility of Gardener, who has a history of back problems, getting hurt, but could reward Gardener nicely if he remains in the lineup, sources said. That would be similar to his current deal. Gardener signed a one-year, $775,000 contract with the Redskins on July 30. The deal included a $250,000 signing bonus, a league-minimum base salary of $525,000 and an additional $1 million or so in potential incentives that could push the total value of the contract to nearly $1.8 million.
Front-office executives around the NFL regarded signing Gardener as risky because he'd undergone two back surgeries and was cut by the Dolphins after clashing with Coach Dave Wannstedt. Gardener played in one Redskins exhibition game, then missed the final three when his back troubles flared. He played the regular season opener but sat out the second game.
He has been in the lineup for the past five games, however, and has become dominant for a defense that ranks eighth in the NFL. He is becoming more comfortable with defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis's scheme, and his 28 tackles lead the club's defensive linemen. He ran down Titans quarterback Steve McNair for an impressive sack during the win at Tennessee on Oct. 6, and he pressured Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning into an interception during last Sunday's victory over the Colts.
"If the back goes out again, it goes out again," Gardener said recently. "But I know I can sleep sound that I gave it all I had out there. I'm not worried about this back. This back will be fine."
Gardener also has been a solid citizen since his arrival, drawing praise from his teammates.
"He's happy, and it's showing," fellow defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said recently.
Gardener said recently of the turmoil that accompanied his departure from the Dolphins: "No matter what the situation is with a coach and a player, the coach always wins. The coach said what he wanted to say. . . . The way I'm acting now is the same way I acted in Miami. They didn't really think I was disruptive in the locker room. That was the only way they could get me out of there, by lies. I'm disruptive on the field. I would like for one of those people in Miami to tell me when I was disruptive in the locker room."