The move, agent Joel Segal said, came during discussions with the Redskins at practices for the Senior Bowl college all-star game in Mobile, Ala., this week. Segal has already begun making contact with other franchises to gauge interest in Gardner, a four-year veteran.
Washington is believed to want a second-round choice in the 2005 draft in return for Gardner, who was the Redskins' first-round pick in 2001.
ESPN.com first reported two weeks ago in a "Tip Sheet" column that the Redskins would make Gardner available in trade talks during the offseason. Granting permission to the wide receiver and his agent to make inquiries of their own leaguewide reinforces that the Redskins intend to deal Gardner. Expanding the loop to include Gardner and Segal could aid Washington in locating suitors.
One team that has already been whispered to have some interest in Gardner is Tampa Bay, which intends to upgrade its wide receiver corps.
At this relatively early juncture of the offseason, Gardner is already the third offensive player to be granted permission to seek a trade, joining tailbacks Travis Henry of Buffalo and Reuben Droughns of Denver. Such permission doesn't always result in a deal, but it does broaden the scope of the search for trade partners, and it allows the player an active role in determining his next address.
In such circumstances, a player's agent will contact teams and discern their level of interest and then apprise the incumbent franchise of potential trade partners.
Gardner, 27, is coming off a 2004 season in which he started in 15 of 16 appearances and posted 51 receptions for 650 yards and five touchdowns. Redskins coaches were somewhat disappointed in his performance, but the Washington passing game struggled all season, and Gardner did not have as many chances to make plays as in previous years.
The former Clemson star has been a starter since his rookie season and in 2002 had his best year, with 71 catches for 1,006 yards and eight touchdowns. In his other three NFL seasons, Gardner, who is regarded as a prototype No. 2 wideout and solid possession receiver with occasional deep speed, averaged 52 receptions.
He has appeared in 62 games, starting in all but two of them, and has 227 catches, 2,997 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Gardner has one year remaining on the original five-year contract he signed as a first-rounder in 2001, and his scheduled base salary for 2005 is $1.446 million. Any team interested in Gardner likely would want him to sign a contract extension.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.