Moving closer to the divorce both sides have acknowledged is imminent, the Washington Redskins and Rod Gardner have mutually agreed that the veteran wide receiver will not attend the team's mandatory mini-camp this weekend.
The absence of Gardner at the mini-camp, which begins on Friday, is hardly surprising. Given that his four-year tenure in Washington has all but ended, the team essentially excused Gardner from all offseason activities. The agreement that Gardner will skip the mini-camp, however, further suggests his pending departure.
Early in the offseason, Washington afforded Gardner and agent Joel Segal permission to seek potential trade scenarios with other NFL teams. Despite discussions with several franchises — Minnesota, Seattle and Cleveland, among them — a deal never developed. That is in part, likely, because teams knew that Gardner would eventually be released and they could then sign him as an unrestricted free agent.
That scenario, with the Redskins officially cutting ties to their 2001 first-round draft choice, will come in the next few weeks.
By releasing Gardner, the Redskins will recoup $2.096 million in cap space, the full amount of his scheduled 2005 base salary. Washington will need that salary cap room to help sign its draft picks and possibly tinker slightly with the roster before camp begins. Gardner's base salary is currently the highest on the team.
In four seasons, Gardner has 227 receptions for 2,997 yards and 22 touchdowns. The former Clemson star, selected with the 15th overall choice in 2001, posted a career-best 71 catches for 1,006 yards and eight touchdowns in 2002. But what many felt would be a breakout season was followed by two years in which Gardner averaged 55 catches, 625 yards and five touchdowns.
Gardner, 27, suffered through stretches of inconsistency in 2004, dropped too many passes, and had just 51 receptions for 650 yards. His problems in 2004 aside, some teams still feel Gardner can be a solid No. 2 receiver, and that he can be acquired with a palatable contract, perhaps a one-year deal that would provide him the chance to re-establish himself and then go back into the free agent market next spring.
Washington has dramatically revamped its wide receiver corps in the offseason. The Redskins traded starter Laveranues Coles to the New York Jets for Santana Moss. The club also signed veteran free agents David Patten, Kevin Dyson and Jimmy Farris.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.