Gardner was drafted out of Purdue in the third round in 2004 and was expected to be a good fit in coach Tony Dungy's defensive scheme. Instead, two injury-prone years relegated Gardner primarily to special teams and backup duty. When David Thornton left after the 2005 season, the Colts plugged him into a starting job.
Gardner never quite fit into that role, either. With the Colts' run defense ranked last in the NFL, Dungy benched Gardner in mid-December and he was inactive for all three playoff games and the Super Bowl.
Still, the Colts saw enough promise in Gardner to offer the restricted free agent a one-year tender worth $850,000, which he signed. But he never made it to training camp.
Gardner finished his Colts career with 97 career tackles, including 66 last year.