Team could release him if no deal is made

First Rod Gardner, now Laveranues Coles. The Washington Redskins could lose both their top receivers after an unsatisfying season in
coach Joe Gibbs' offense.

Coles has met with Gibbs twice to state his desire to leave the Redskins, including a forthright conversation the day after the season ended, an official within the league told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday. The Redskins, in turn, have told Coles they want him to have surgery on the chronic toe injury that has plagued him the past two seasons, a procedure Coles
has been reluctant to undergo, the source said.

Sources told the Washington Post that the Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and Coles' agent, Roosevelt Barnes, have reached an oral agreement that the wide receiver will likely be released, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Sources close to Coles told ESPN.com on Monday morning, however, that the Redskins were "trying to back off" their agreement to release the wide receiver and that they were trying to trade him before making such a drastic move. Gibbs also told the Washington Post that the team would attempt to trade the disgruntled receiver.

"Hopefully something will work out good for him and good for us," Gibbs was quoted as saying on the Post's Web site.

A trade would be difficult, though, since the Redskins would absorb a salary cap hit in excess of $9 million. It is also unclear what the Redskins could get for Coles -- his trade value could have been hurt by his desire to leave Washington, his drop-off in productivity last season and his nagging toe injury.

A source told the Washington Post that should Coles be released, he has agreed to pay back part of the $13 million signing bonus he received when he signed a seven-year, $35 million contract as a free agent from the New York Jets two years ago, to minimize the cap hit the Redskins would absorb.

"They can't have it both ways," said one source. "If he's going to repay part of (his signing bonus), it's because he can be a free agent, and choose where he continues his career, not to have them trade him. Honestly, it's a mess right now."

The Star-Ledger reported Tuesday that the Jets have had cursory talks about re-acquiring Coles, but any such move would likely take place after the NFL scouting combine.

Gibbs called reporters to Redskins Park on Monday to address the Coles situation, but the coach offered few details.

"I've had talks with him," Gibbs said. "Everything that we've discussed is going to be between me and him."

Coles' meetings with Gibbs were first reported by The Washington Post, but Gibbs said the Post's report that the meetings were likely to lead to Coles' release was "inaccurate."

Last month, the Redskins granted Gardner's request to seek a trade. Coles and Gardner accounted for a combined 141 catches and 1,600 yards for the Redskins last season, but both were disenchanted with a conservative offense that produced few big plays downfield and ranked 30th overall.

"I know that was a frustration for everybody," Gibbs said.

Coles had 90 catches for 950 yards for a career-low 10.6 yards a catch and only one touchdown in the Redskins' 6-10 season. The year before, under pass-oriented coach Steve Spurrier, Coles had 82 receptions for 1,204 yards and six touchdowns.

After Gibbs' first meeting with Coles, which came a day after the season-ending victory over Minnesota, Coles stormed past reporters in the parking lot and told them to call his agent for any news about him.

While Coles has been unhappy with the offense, the Redskins have been concerned about Coles' right big toe, which has a stress fracture and became arthritic. Coles opted for rest instead of surgery after the 2003 season, but the injury continued to bother him in 2004. Gibbs has said the decision whether to have surgery is up to Coles, but the team wants him to have the procedure if he is to stay with the team, the source said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.