Jets let Coles sign with #039;Skins

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 20, 2003

NEW YORK - The Washington Redskins got another top-rate player Wednesday when the New York Jets did not match an offer sheet for wide receiver Laveranues Coles.

Coles became the third Jets starter to wind up in Washington this winter. A restricted free agent, he signed a seven-year, $35 million deal that included a $13 million signing bonus. Coles had to wait to see if New York would match that contract, but the Jets passed.

Instead, New York gets a first-round draft pick, 13th overall, as compensation for losing Coles.

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''You never want to lose good football players, but we feel this is the best decision for our football team, in the short term and the long term,'' general manager Terry Bradway said. ''It was not an easy decision.''

Since free agency began this year, the Redskins signed guard Randy Thomas and placekicker John Hall away from the Jets. Both were unrestricted free agents.

Coles had a breakthrough performance in his third NFL season, catching 89 passes for 1,264 yards and five touchdowns.

With Coles gone, the Jets are expected to pursue a veteran receiver. They already have talked with unrestricted free agents Curtis Conway and Kevin Dyson, showed interest in trading for San Francisco's Tai Streets and Seattle's Darrell Jackson.

They now own two first-round choices, Nos. 13 and 22, and might package those picks to move up in the draft. The top prospects among receivers, Charles Rogers of Michigan State and Andre Johnson of Miami, are expected to go very early in next month's draft.

For now, the team's starters will be veteran Wayne Chrebet and third-year wideout Santana Moss, a 2001 first-round pick who has been slowed by injuries.

The Jets also should have ample money to re-sign Pennington and star defensive end John Abraham, who would become free agents after the 2003 season. They aren't likely to make the mistake of letting another team set the market value for any more key players after losing Coles to Washington.

The team did not lose kick returner Chad Morton to the Redskins, matching a five-year, $8 million offer to the restricted free agent last week.

Other starters gone from the Jets are fullback Richie Anderson, who signed with Dallas earlier this month, and free safety Damien Robinson, who was cut. Robinson signed with Seattle.