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Five-year veteran wide receiver Rod Gardner, released by the Carolina Panthers last Friday, has been claimed on waivers by the Green Bay Packers and will report to the team on Tuesday morning, ESPN.com has confirmed.
The move is a bit surprising, coming with only two games remaining in the season, but the Packers have been beset all season by injuries to the wide receiver corps and will now get to audition Gardner for two weeks at a very reasonable price. The Packers will pay Gardner a prorated share of his $1 million salary for 2005, or just $117,647.
If the Packers like what they see of Gardner, they could attempt to sign the former Clemson star to an extension and bring him to camp next summer. Without an extension, he will become an unrestricted free agent in the spring.
Green Bay currently has two wide receivers, starter Javon Walker and highly regarded rookie Terrence Murphy, on injured reserve. Another veteran wideout, Robert Ferguson, has suffered through injuries. The only Packers wide receiver who has started in every game is Donald Driver, and the need to play younger receivers, and the inconsistency that has resulted, clearly affected the Green Bay passing attack this season.
Walker is recovering from knee surgery and Murphy from a neck injury; while both are expected to be rehabilitated in time for training camp, Gardner could offer a veteran insurance policy if the Packers re-sign him.
Gardner, 28, spent the first four seasons of his career with the Washington Redskins, who chose him in the first round of the 2001 draft. Washington traded Gardner to Carolina this summer for a low-round draft pick, but he managed just nine receptions for 84 yards and one touchdown before the Panthers released him last week.
Although he has suffered through stretches of inconsistency and has just average speed, Gardner is a four-year starter in the league and still has enough abilities to contribute in the right environment. He is more a possession receiver, can play in the slot and has the kind of size that provides some good matchup opportunities.
In 74 career appearances, Gardner has 236 receptions for 3,081 yards and 23 touchdowns. His best season was in 2002, with Washington, when he caught 71 passes for 1,006 yards and eight touchdowns. He averaged 56.8 catches per season in Washington and is hoping to regain that form in 2006, whether in Green Bay or elsewhere.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.