Contract negotiations between the Washington Redskins and Daryl Gardener's representative remained at an impasse yesterday, increasing the chances that the defensive tackle will leave the team as a free agent, sources close to the situation said.
Gardener's agent, Neil Schwartz, met with Redskins officials, including owner Daniel Snyder, in Indianapolis, where they are attending the NFL's scouting combine. But sources said the sides made no progress toward resolving their differences on the financial terms of a multiyear contract.
"We talked," Schwartz said. "We're continuing to negotiate."
Gardener is eligible for unrestricted free agency on Friday, and has said he intends to sign elsewhere if he does not have a deal with the Redskins before then. Sources said the sides have become increasingly entrenched in their positions while disagreeing over whether Gardener should receive a sizable bonus after three seasons if his troublesome back remains healthy.
The Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys likely would be among the teams in pursuit of Gardener if he opts to leave the Redskins. Gardener's camp seems convinced that another club would give him the sort of contract he is seeking if he hits the open market, and sources said the Redskins probably will have to make a dramatic move in negotiations to retain him. When talks broke down two weeks ago after the sides nearly completed a deal during several days of face-to-face negotiations at Redskins Park, Gardener told Snyder that he intended to sign with another team.
Gardener is seeking a deal worth about $15 million over three seasons, including a signing bonus of $5 million and an option bonus of $5 million payable after the 2005 season. Under Gardener's proposal to the Redskins, the amount of the option bonus would decrease for each game he misses because of back problems. The Redskins have offered Gardener about $12 million over three seasons as part of a five-year proposal worth approximately $20 million. The offer included a $5 million signing bonus but no option bonus. The team later offered to increase its signing bonus to $7 million, but only if Gardener agreed to refund a portion of it for each game he missed because of a back injury.
Gardener just completed a one-year, $775,000 contract. The team might have to abandon plans to release defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson in June if Gardener departs, and intensify its efforts to sign other defensive linemen in free agency. The Redskins apparently hope to sign a guard, probably the New York Jets' Randy Thomas or the Oakland Raiders' Mo Collins, in free agency, along with a wide receiver and a backup quarterback.