March 9, 2003 -- Laveranues Coles, Chad Pennington's go-to guy, has been insulted by the Jets and is ready to entertain free agent offers that would land him in greener pastures, The Post has learned.
"I spoke to an owner last night," Coles said from Florida in an exclusive interview, "and he seems like he's very adamant about being able to make a move the Jets wouldn't match, and would I be willing to consider leaving the Jets?
"If it means me getting my money, that's what I have to do."
Coles would not divulge the owner's identity. But he isn't bluffing.
It has now come down to this: Pay him or lose him.
"We didn't get nowhere with negotiations," Coles said. "They told me to take it or leave it. It was a slap in the face."
The Jets offered Coles a $6 million signing bonus and a seven-year deal he felt was a lowball offer.
"I was looking for at least $10 [million]-plus," Coles said, "considering the deals I [now] see people getting around me, like Peerless Price."
The Bills' trade of Price to the Falcons for a first-round draft pick, and the healthy contract Price signed Friday (approximately a $10 million signing bonus and seven years for between $35 million and $40 million) opened Coles' eyes even wider.
"He's getting six [mil] a year," Coles said. "I wanted to average four-and-a-half. [The Jets] were nowhere near that."
What did the Jets offer? "A little bit over three," Coles said. "I told them no. So they threatened to tender me. I was like, 'Tender me.' "
They tendered Coles, a restricted free agent, a one-year, $1.3 million offer. Jets GM Terry Bradway decided against a $1.8 million offer that would have brought first- and third-round picks back as compensation should the club decide not to match. At the time, Bradway said, "Laveranues has made a decision to bet on himself."
The sides have not been in communication since.
How valuable is Coles? More valuable than the first-round draft choice the Jets would get should he leave New York. Valuable enough for Pennington to lobby the front office to do everything in its power to keep Coles.
Coles has spoken with Pennington. "He said he already expressed his concern about it," Coles said.
Price, in four years in Buffalo, caught 232 passes for 3,302 yards (14.2 ypc) and 22 TDs. Coles, in three years as a Jet, has caught 170 passes for 2,502 yards (14.7 ypc) and 13 TDs. Price was 94-1,252 (14.2) with 9 TDs last season playing with Drew Bledsoe. Coles was 89-1,264 (14.2) last season with 5 TDs.
Coles was asked what he would like to say to Jets fans. "I want to be in New York," he said, "but they really leave me no choice. They have the cap room. They have money. They don't want to give it up, I guess."
What impact would Coles leaving have on Pennington's value? S.Moss and Chrebet?
Who would be willing to pay Coles that type of money? Baltimore? Arizona?