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Jets and KC Draft a Deal

by Rich Cimini
New York Daily News

K.C. giving in on Herm picks

At 9:15 yesterday morning, Herm Edwards gathered his assistant coaches in a meeting room at Weeb Ewbank Hall and, for the first time, acknowledged his uncertain future as the Jets’ coach. He told the coaches he was “in limbo.”

At that point, the compensation talks between the Jets and Chiefs were stalled. By nightfall – after a high-stakes stare-down – the talks had resumed and the two sides were closing in on an agreement, according to two people close to the situation.

Barring a snag in negotiations, Edwards will be released today from his contract, pending approval by the NFL. Once that formality is cleared, he will be free to become the Chiefs’ coach.

“They’re talking, and that’s a good sign,” one person close to the talks said last night.

It was a crazy day, even by Jets standards. It included hardball negotiating tactics and rumors that Edwards had resigned.

The Jets, tired of being strung along in the Chiefs’ game of hard-to-get, issued a 6 p.m. deadline, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. They gambled, calling the Chiefs’ bluff. Shortly before 6, Chiefs president Carl Peterson phoned GM Terry Bradway to continue the negotiations.

Edwards’ departure appeared to be a done deal, as many in the organization acknowledged what had become clear over the last two days: the coach’s five-year run with the Jets is over. One TV report said Edwards had quit, but his agent, Gary O’Hagan, denied that.

In exchange for the rights to Edwards, the Jets will receive a compensation package that likely would include two middle-round draft picks, believed to be fourth- and fifth-rounders. That would be a below-market package; in 2001, the Chiefs surrendered second- and third-round picks for Dick Vermeil, who was retired but under contract to the Rams.

Edwards will be permitted to open negotiations with the Chiefs, although that appears to be just a formality. He could receive as much as $4 million a year on a contract of at least four years. There are two years remaining on his Jets’ contract at about $2 million annually.

Edwards, who put in a full day at the office, didn’t want to comment last night from his home, according to his wife, Lia. Neither the Jets nor Chiefs have made public comments.

The reason for the divorce depends on whose side you believe. People close to Edwards said he feels underpaid and underappreciated, and that he was annoyed the club made no effort after the season to address his concerns. He told coaching friends in recent weeks that he was miserable in New York.

In the coaches’ meeting, Edwards painted himself as the victim, saying he felt alienated by management, according to one staff member. Edwards told them he wanted to remain the Jets’ coach, that management had forced his hand.

Privately, the organization had grown tired of Edwards, saying it never would have pursued the Chiefs’ scenario if he simply had stated his desire to stay. Indeed, the Jets and Edwards’ agent never talked about a contract extension, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The situation became so tense yesterday that a previously scheduled morning news conference, with Edwards and Bradway due to appear together to discuss last season and the future, was hastily canceled.

“We were not prepared to have it,” team spokesman Ron Colangelo said. “Change of plans.”

The Chiefs, perhaps in a ploy to pressure the Jets, continued to interview candidates for their head coaching vacancy. Yesterday, Peterson flew to Indianapolis to meet with Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks – at least the third candidate to be interviewed.

The Jets, not wanting to get stuck with a coach they didn’t want (and a coach who apparently didn’t want them), began to sweat it out. They issued the ultimatum. Resorting to a scare tactic, they told the Chiefs that, if they blew the deadline, they would announce that Edwards wanted to be released from his contract, according to ESPN.com. A team official denied that.

It turned out to be moot, as the Chiefs resumed talks before the 6 p.m. deadline.

The Jets must begin the search for a successor. They likely will interview their coordinators, Mike Heimerdinger, Donnie Henderson and Mike Westhoff. They also have been in contact with former Saints coach Jim Haslett. Former Giants coach and current Ravens coordinator Jim Fassel and former Packers coach Mike Sherman also are possibilities.

“I would think the guys will be disappointed that Herm leaves,” center Pete Kendall said. “Whoever comes in is going to inherit a locker room of good guys, of pros, of guys who understand this type of stuff is part of the business.”

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