Wide receiver Laveranues Coles said yesterday he hopes the New York Jets don't match the seven-year, $35 million offer sheet that he agreed to with the Washington Redskins on Sunday. He could get his wish, as Jets General Manager Terry Bradway hinted that his club might allow the restricted free agent to leave.
Coles arrived in town yesterday and is scheduled to undergo a physical today. The Redskins planned to file the offer sheet, which includes a $13 million signing bonus, with the league office if no problems arise.
"They've showed me how much they want me here," Coles said during a brief stop at Redskins Park before heading to a dinner meeting with Redskins officials. "This is where I want to be, being that they stepped out on a limb for me. That's saying a lot, to make that statement toward me."
In a telephone interview, Bradway declined to say what the Jets will do. He said he hadn't seen the offer sheet. The Jets would have a week to match the offer to Coles, 25. If they allow him to leave, they would receive the Redskins' first-round selection, the 13th choice, in the April 26 draft. Bradway sounded upbeat about the possibility.
"We were more concerned about teams drafting after us [signing Coles] -- Philadelphia and Atlanta," Bradway said. "I was worried about a team with the 30th pick going after him. I'm happy with the pick we'd get. . . . I think there's good depth at receiver in this draft. I think there's a lot of talent there."
The Jets apparently were leaning toward matching the Redskins' offer to another restricted free agent, running back and kick returner Chad Morton. The Redskins and Morton agreed on Thursday to a five-year, $8 million deal that includes a $2.5 million signing bonus. The Redskins would owe the Jets a fifth-round pick if they acquire Morton.
The Redskins believed they were about to acquire safety Matt Bowen, the first of the club's three restricted free agent signings. The Green Bay Packers must decide by today whether to match the Redskins' four-year, $6 million offer sheet, which includes a signing bonus of $1.6 million.
But Coles is the prized catch, and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder began whirlwind negotiations with agent Roosevelt Barnes on Friday after determining the club wanted Coles more than any wide receiver it could draft. Sunday night, Coles agreed to the NFL's largest up-front bonus ever for a wide receiver. The deal also contains a $2 million bonus payable in July 2006 to dissuade the Jets from matching the offer. But Coles would count a relatively modest $2.31 million against next season's $75.007 million salary cap. The Redskins might have to release a player or two to clear the needed cap space.
"It was a surprise to me also," said Coles, who had 89 catches for 1,264 yards last year in his third NFL season. "I didn't expect for it to come about this fast. When I talked to Mr. Snyder on Friday, he said they were kind of in a dilemma about some things about how they were going to maneuver around to probably get a receiver, and he would get back to me during the week sometime. . . . And then I received a call [from his agent Sunday night] saying that I had a deal done. That shows you how fast things go."
Coach Herman Edwards called Coles the Jets' most valuable player last season, but contract talks with the receiver stalled when he was offered a $6 million signing bonus as part of a seven-year proposal. Coles reportedly was seeking a $10 million bonus in a long-term deal worth $4.5 million per season.
"I thought I was a pretty good receiver for the team," Coles said. "Obviously they felt differently about my abilities and what I was capable of doing. I felt like I was the guy on their football team, and I felt like I should have been paid like that. I guess they didn't feel that way. It may be a conflict in belief. Maybe they felt like they could try to low-ball me and maybe nobody would come after me by putting that tender on me. Obviously it didn't work."
The Jets gave Coles a $1.318 million contract tender, but would have had the right to receive first- and third-round picks as compensation for losing him if they had given him a $1.758 million offer. Bradway said the Jets decided against the higher offer because it would have created a salary-cap squeeze that would have cost the team a player or two. The Jets reportedly are about $5.5 million under the cap.
The Redskins signed Morton and Coles to offer sheets after signing a pair of unrestricted free agents, guard Randy Thomas and place kicker John Hall, from the Jets. Bradway said he thought it was just a coincidence that the Redskins have signed so many Jets.
"We had some good players that were up -- John Hall, Thomas and two very interesting restricted free agents," Bradway said. "We've got some good players and you know with free agency that you can't keep them all and you can't pay them all."
The Jets started looking at alternatives to Coles yesterday and expressed interest in wide receiver Kevin Dyson, an unrestricted free agent. The Redskins also are pursuing Dyson, who visited Buffalo yesterday. The Tennessee Titans are attempting to re-sign him.
Coles, who said he hadn't signed the Redskins' offer sheet as of early last night but that he had agreed to it, called it "a receiver's dream" to play for Coach Steve Spurrier. Coles was recruited to play at the University of Florida by Spurrier as a running back at Ribault High School in Jacksonville, Fla., but chose Florida State.
"You know you're going to get your opportunities in his offense," Coles said. "That's all a receiver wants, is a chance."