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Edwards free to move to Chiefs

by Len Pasquarelli

Only the unlikely scenario under which the two sides do not strike a contract agreement will keep New York Jets coach Herman Edwards from moving on to the Kansas City Chiefs in the same capacity, ESPN.com has learned.

The two teams late Thursday agreed on compensation that will free Edwards from the two years remaining on his Jets contract.

Under the agreement, the Jets will receive a fourth-round pick in the 2006 draft. The two franchises had been haggling for days.

Chiefs spokesman Bob Moore said that Chiefs president/general manager Carl Peterson was on his way to New York to begin negotiations. The commissioner’s office approved the fourth-round pick as compensation earlier Friday morning and granted Kansas City permission to speak with Edwards, who technically remains the head coach of the Jets.

Given the lengthy mating dance, and the obvious mutual interest, a contract could be agreed upon quickly.

Negotiations between the Jets and Chiefs lurched forward on Thursday evening after a long day of inertia, confusion and acrimony. By late night, sources told ESPN.com, the two sides had reached a compensation accord.

ESPN.com reported Thursday that the Jets, who clearly no longer wanted Edwards to remain as coach, at one point Thursday imposed a 6 p.m. deadline for completing the agreement with Kansas City. The Jets were prepared, if the deadline passed, to announce that Edwards had requested to be released from his contract. But just before the deadline, discussions resumed with the Chiefs.

Meanwhile, sources close to Edwards told ESPN.com on Thursday that the coach had not requested to be released from his contract, which runs through the 2007 season.

“Herm Edwards is not resigning,” agent Gary O’Hagan told ESPN.com, emphatically, on Thursday evening. “He plans to work out the final two years of his contract.”

Beyond that, O’Hagan declined comment, other than to reiterate he has been involved in no discussions with Peterson. His only dialogue, O’Hagan said, has been with his client and with Jets officials. O’Hagan said that reports Edwards was “out” as the Jets coach were not true.

On an unusual day, Edwards acted as if it were business as usual, and was at the team complex putting in a full work day.

Still, semantics aside, it has become increasingly clear that, given the prolonged mating dance with the Chiefs, there is little chance Edwards can remain with the Jets for 2006. New York officials, as reported by ESPN.com on Wednesday evening, have grown both wary and weary of Edwards’ perceived flirtations with a Kansas City franchise for which he previously worked.

The mind-set inside the Jets complex, one team source told ESPN.com on Wednesday and Thursday, is that if Edwards doesn’t want to stick around, then it would be better that he leave. One way or another, it appears, Edwards will not be back. If a deal with the Chiefs can’t be struck, the Jets may be forced to fire Edwards.

Jets officials already have begun drawing up a list of potential replacements.

One other NFL franchise, which has not been identified, has made inquiries about Edwards but has not formally opened talks with the Jets and is believed to now be moving in another direction for a new head coach.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported earlier Thursday that Peterson was reluctant to agree to a compensation package based on sentiment around the NFL that the frustrated Jets might eventually fire Edwards. Under that scenario, any franchise could hire Edwards without having to compensate the Jets.

In his five seasons with the Jets, Edwards has compiled a 41-46 record and taken the team to the playoffs three times and won one division title. His salary, about $2 million per year, ranks in the bottom quadrant of head coaches. Facing a major rebuilding program, it is believed Edwards has sought a salary increase and possibly a contract extension.

Among the potential candidates to replace Edwards, if he does depart, is former New Orleans coach Jim Haslett, dismissed earlier this week. But a Jets official told ESPN.com that, while there is some interest in Haslett, most of the dialogue has been initiated by his agent. And the official conceded that hiring a coach who had a worse record in 2005 than Edwards would be a difficult sell to Jets fans.

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