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Negotiations aimed at completing a draft choice compensation package that would allow New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards to move to the Kansas City Chiefs in the same capacity lurched forward on Thursday evening.
But only after a long day of inertia, confusion and acrimony.
ESPN.com has learned that the Jets, who clearly no longer want Edwards to remain as coach, at one point Thursday imposed a 6 p.m. deadline for completing the compensation agreement with Kansas City officials. 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, and the two franchises were again trying to find a middle ground on compensation.
Meanwhile, sources close to Edwards told ESPN.com 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 Chiefs president/general manager Carl 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 was business as usual and was at the Jets 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's 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 have already begun drawing up a list of potential replacements.
One other NFL franchise, which has not been identified, has made inquiries about Edwards. But that team 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 talks between the Chiefs and Jets had stalled and that closing the deal was becoming increasingly difficult. The reluctance of Peterson to consummate a compensation package, Mortensen was told by sources, was a function of some sentiment around the NFL that the frustrated Jets might just eventually fire Edwards. Under that scenario, the Chiefs or any other franchise could hire Edwards without having to compensate the Jets at all.
On Wednesday, ESPN.com reported that, under the parameters of the compensation package that had been discussed, the Chiefs would not part with a first-round choice. It is believed the teams have discussed compensation that would include only two middle-round choices, although it is unclear if both would be in the 2006 draft.
Any compensation package agreed to by the Chiefs and Jets must still be approved by commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
In his five seasons with the Jets, Edwards has compiled a 41-46 record, taken the team to the playoffs three times and won one division title. But his salary, about $2 million per year, ranks in the bottom quadrant of head coaches. And 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 an even worse record in 2005 than Edwards did would be a difficult sell to Jets fans.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.