- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 30, 2005

Making official what had been widely expected for months, the Washington Redskins have permitted receiver Rod Gardner to seek a trade.

Agent Joel Segal yesterday confirmed an ESPN.com report that he had been authorized by Washington to probe trade possibilities at Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala., last week.

“We have permission to seek a trade,” Segal said.

Segal declined further comment when asked whether trade talks would involve contract discussions or simple inquiries as to interest. By all appearances, Gardner’s search for a new team is in its early stages and hasn’t advanced to the point of specific talks.

Last year the Redskins authorized cornerback Champ Bailey to seek a trade, and Bailey ended up negotiating a seven-year, $63million contract with the Denver Broncos. Washington then traded Bailey and a second-round pick to Denver for running back Clinton Portis in one of the biggest swaps in NFL history.

Gardner’s situation is much different. For one, the 15th overall pick in the 2001 draft has never reached his potential in four seasons with the Redskins. For another, Gardner still has a year left on his contract at $1.4million while Bailey was unsigned but constrained by the franchise-player tag.

In other words, another team could acquire Gardner and simply let him play out his contract, then re-sign him at midseason if he performed well.

At this point, it isn’t even clear whether much of a market exists for Gardner. The former Clemson star caught just 51 passes for 650 yards last season and revived his old “50-50” moniker — the odds that he would catch a given pass.

Gardner has the physical tools to be a premier No.2 receiver. He is 6-foot-2, 213 pounds and can bench-press upward of 400 pounds. But he caught just 71 passes for 1,006 yards in his best season, 2002, and clearly hasn’t developed the work habits or attention to detail of a true professional. Also, scouts have concerns about Gardner’s speed.

The thing that might undermine his trade value most is the fact that Washington so clearly is moving on without him. Other teams simply could wait until Gardner is cut and hits the open market. The Redskins’ best bet seems to be that two clubs show interest and bid against each other.

One thing is certain, though: Gardner won’t command a second-round pick. One top personnel official with another NFL club said he’d be “stunned” if Washington was able to generate such compensation.

The Redskins’ receiver rotation for 2005 remains highly uncertain. Washington spent a first-round pick and big money for Laveranues Coles in 2003, but he has been hampered by a toe injury for most of his two seasons in town. Special-teams star James Thrash, former second-round pick Taylor Jacobs and rarely used Darnerien McCants also are on the roster.

The Redskins could seek a big-time free agent like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Plaxico Burress when the market opens March2, or they could use the draft’s ninth overall pick on a prospect like Southern California’s Mike Williams.

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