The Washington Redskins yesterday resumed negotiations with Daryl Gardener’s agent one day after the defensive tackle returned to town and expressed frustration about the stalled contract talks.
Agent Neil Schwartz reported no substantial progress but said he believed a deal could be struck soon. Gardener is expected to return to his offseason home in Miami today or early next week.
After emerging as a force on the interior line last season, Gardener is the most significant of Washington’s 10 players who will become unrestricted free agents Feb.28. He has grown increasingly eager for a deal since late in the season and lately has spoken of possibly playing for Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati or Bill Parcells in Dallas.
Meanwhile, defensive tackle Del Cowsette, potentially a significant contributor next season, hopes to be injury-free for the first time in two years after wrist surgery 10 days ago.
Cowsette, 25, initially broke a bone in his left thumb/wrist area, technically the scaphoid bone, in the 2001 preseason. He played that year with a cast and had surgery the following spring.
Although he played in 2002 and started to show he belongs in the NFL, he needed a splint and experienced pain.
“He’s been playing with one arm,” agent George Mavrikes said. “Now he finally should be healthy.”
The Redskins’ questions along the defensive line mean Cowsette’s status could be important. Neither starting defensive tackle is set Gardener is unsigned and Dan Wilkinson is a likely post-June1 cut. And top reserve Carl Powell also is unsigned.
Thus, Cowsette, a seventh-round pick out of Maryland in 2000, figures to get considerable snaps in 2003 as the type of quality, low-cost reserve that is crucial in the salary cap era. He is unsigned at this point but, as an exclusive-rights player, he can be retained for a low tender offer.
Despite the wrist injury, Cowsette recorded 12 tackles and two sacks last season in reserve duty. He impressed coaches with his play at times, but they wanted more consistency. However, he did seem to prove that he could play at this level despite being undersized at 6-foot-1, 287 pounds.
Cowsette is scheduled to have his cast removed next week. According to Mavrikes, he should be healed for the start of the club’s offseason training program in late March and will be ready to go for the first minicamp in early May.