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Jets take White's advice, trade for Esiason

By
DAVE RAFFO UPI Sports Writer

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Boomer Esiason was granted his wish to be traded to the New York Jets Wednesday, and thanked Reggie White.

'The power of Reggie White is amazing,' Esiason said.

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The Jets sent a third-round 1993 draft choice to the Cincinnati Bengals for Esiason, one day after White said the Jets' chances of signing him would improve if they acquired a veteran quarterback like Esiason.

'If I can find Reggie, I'll send him flowers,' Esiason said. 'I can't seem to track him down. I don't know where his tour is at now.'

Jets General Manager Dick Steinberg said the deal had nothing to do with White, and the Philadelphia Eagles defensive end only mentioned Esiason because he knew the deal was close. But he joked about discussing more changes with White.

'Sorry I'm late,' Steinberg said at the opening of his news conference. 'I was talking to Reggie. I wanted to know if he wanted us to change our logo.'

The trade for Esiason comes a week after the Jets signed safety Ronnie Lott and defensive end Leonard Marshall as free agents on consecutive days. White visited the Jets Monday and Tuesday as part of his tour of suitors.

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Esiason has spent his entire nine-year career with the Bengals, taking them to the Super Bowl in 1988 when he was the NFL's Most Valuable Player. But he and the Bengals have stumbled recently. Cincinnati finished 5-11 under rookie coach David Shula last year, and Esiason's passing rating of 57.0 ranked only ahead of New York's Browning Nagle and Seattle's Stan Gelbaugh among AFC quarterbacks. Esiason asked the Bengals to trade him because he didn't want to back up youngster David Klingler. Esiason started 11 games in 1992 before giving way to the rookie.

The Jets are counting on a reunion between left-hander Esiason and Bruce Coslet to bring Esiason around. Before becoming Jets head coach in 1990, Coslet was Cincinnati's offensive coordinator during Esiason's best seasons. Esiason is also returning home. He grew up 40 miles from the Jets headquarters in East Islip.

Steinberg and Coslet say Esiason and Nagle will compete for the job. Ken O'Brien, who has started for most of the past decade, is on the trading block.

Esiason, who turns 32 next month, said talk about battling for a job is just talk.

'I guess that's the company line,' he said. 'You don't have to be a genius to understand why they traded for me. They didn't trade for me and my salary to stand on the sidelines.

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'Obviously they feel there is still a lot of good football in me, they feel they are getting good leadership. And they feel there are a lot of intangibles I bring to the team and, hopefully, one of them will be Reggie White.'

Esiason said the Jets did not ask him to renegotiate his contract, which will pay him in the neighborhood of $3 million in 1993. He added the Jets and Los Angeles Raiders were the two teams he wanted most to play for.

Esiason's attributed his problems the last two seasons, when he threw 24 touchdown passes and 31 interceptions, to a lack of offensive coordinator and many injuries on the team. Esiason, who has been bothered by elbow and shoulder injuries, said he is healthy and pointed out he has never had surgery or any major injuries.

Coslet said he re-evaluated Esiason over the past few months, looking at films of the past four seasons. The Jets also asked new assistant general manger James Harris, a former NFL quarterback, to watch Esiason on film before making the trade.

'I felt he would be the right fit,' Coslet said. 'We think he could still get the job done. I have the experienced quarterback who's been in this system for years.'

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Nagle, entering his third season, took over as a starter for O'Brien last year and struggled. He completed 7 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and the Jets finished 4-12.

'Browning's reaction (to the trade) was, 'Why are you paying so much for a backup?'' Steinberg said, 'which is exactly what we wanted to hear. As for Ken O'Brien, we will do our best to make a trade as soon as possible to get him to a club where he could play.'

Esiason will also cost the Jets a second-round 1994 draft pick if he starts eight games, plays half the team's offensive plays and has an 89. 0 passing rating next season. Houston's Warren Moon was the only AFC quarterback rated that high in 1992. The last time Esiason's rating was 89 or higher was in 1989.

'We've upgraded the position,' Steinberg said. 'That's the reason for Ronnie Lott, that's the reason for Leonard Marshall. The ultimate upgrade is Reggie White.'

With Lott, Marshall and Esiason, the Jets have added seven Super Bowl titles, eight Super Bowl appearances, 15 Pro Bowls, and 31 years of NFL experience. They have also acquired 98 years of age and increased their 1993 payroll by some $6 million.

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