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Wide Receiver Becomes A 'High Priority'

With the possible departure of Rod Gardner this offseason, the position of wide receiver moves to the forefront of the team's needs, head coach Joe Gibbs said on Monday.

That means the Redskins could pursue a wide receiver in free agency or select a top-flight rookie in this April's NFL Draft.

The Redskins' wide receiver squad could get a makeover this offseason, Gibbs said. The team has starter Laveranues Coles and backups James Thrash and Taylor Jacobs expected back next season. Gardner, the other starter from last season, has been granted permission by the team to seek a trade.

"We feel like, from a wide receiver standpoint, we are looking for someone who is talented and fits in with us," Gibbs said. "We're looking for someone we can build around. Taylor Jacobs is a guy we think we can build around and obviously we love James Thrash's ability.

"We'll continue to look at [the wide receiver position] and it is a high priority for us. That is one of the things that we are going to give serious consideration to rebuilding and redoing. We need to get on with it and we feel this is one step with Rod."

Last season, the Redskins' wide receivers were led by Coles, who logged 90 catches for 950 yards and one touchdown. The 90 receptions ranks third-best in Redskins history, but his yards-per-catch average of 10.6 and one touchdown were emblematic of a downfield passing offense that struggled at times.

Gardner was second on the team with 51 catches. Among other wide receivers, Thrash had 17 catches and Jacobs had 16, but both showed flashes toward the end of the season.

Asked where Darnerien McCants fits in with the wide receivers corps, Gibbs indicated there was still an evaluation process going on with the fourth-year player. McCants caught only five passes for 71 yards last year and was among the team's gameday inactives most of the season.

"I think with Darnerien, we're going to continue to look at him and see what we think," Gibbs said. "That's a different scenario there."

The Redskins own the ninth overall pick in April's NFL Draft. It's possible that the Redskins will use that pick on a wide receiver. Among the top receivers expected to go in the first round are Mike Williams from USC, Mark Clayton from Oklahoma and Braylon Edwards from Michigan.

Free agency officially begins on March 2. Some of the unrestricted free agent wide receivers are expected to include Pittsburgh's Plaxico Burress, Cincinnati's T.J. Houshmandzadeh, New England's David Patten and Baltimore's Travis Taylor.

Meantime, Coles has informed team officials that he will not have surgery to repair a toe injury that has bothered him each of the last two seasons. Coles received a cortisone shot in the toe late last season and it seemed to help him finish out the year strong.

"We have ruled out surgery," Gibbs said. "We did get him a [cortisone] shot later in the year and it seemed to make a lot of difference.

"[Not having surgery] was ultimately his decision. It was optional. He felt like he was confident enough after getting the shot that he felt real good. So he feels like that won't be a problem."

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