Originally created 09/02/04

Pennington gets seven-year contract extension



HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Chad Pennington agreed to a $64 million, seven-year contract extension with the New York Jets on Wednesday that includes $23 million in guaranteed money.

A source familiar with the negotiations, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that Pennington will average $9.172 million a year. The quarterback, entering his fifth season, also receives the second-largest amount of up-front money, behind only Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, who got a $34.5 million signing bonus earlier this year. The total value of Pennington's deal is $64.197 million.

Both of those contracts were negotiated by Tom Condon, who was not available for comment Wednesday. The Jets do not release contract terms.

Pennington had set a deadline of the end of the preseason, which is after Friday night's game against Philadelphia, for a new deal to be finalized. He did not want negotiations to stretch into the season, nor did the Jets, who didn't want to chance losing him as a free agent.

Pennington, the 18th overall pick in the 2000 draft, has been the Jets' starter in only 23 games. He comes off an injury-racked season, but in 2002 he replaced Vinny Testaverde as the starter a month into the schedule and led the Jets to the AFC East title. He also led the NFL in passing efficiency that season with a 104.2 rating, 3,120 yards, 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

Last summer, he broke his wrist and hand in an exhibition game and was sidelined for two months. The Jets wound up 6-10.

"You're not looking at a team that thinks, or even knows, we were 6-10 last year," Pennington said. "We've got an element of surprise in us. I don't know what we're capable of, but I know we have a chance. I feel like we have an opportunity to do something. There's a different feeling on and off the field, a different attitude, a different mind-set. There's a different focus, a hunger. There's a new energy about us."

The size of Pennington's deal could cripple the Jets in future negotiations with their own free agents. Defensive ends John Abraham and Shaun Ellis and tight end Anthony Becht, all first-round draft picks in 2000 along with Pennington, are in their final contract years. So is running back LaMont Jordan.

Pennington instructed Condon to make the new contract as salary cap friendly as possible.

"Tom knows how I feel about being a team player so we can keep players," Pennington said.

Still, with running back Curtis Martin, center Kevin Mawae and Pennington taking up huge chunks of the salary cap - and with receiver Santana Moss also looking for a new deal - keeping their players will be difficult for the Jets.

Pennington sat for his first two pro seasons behind Testaverde. When the Jets struggled early in the 2002 season, coach Herman Edwards turned to Pennington, making "one of the toughest decisions of my career."

But Pennington made Edwards look smart as the Jets went from 1-4 and 2-5 to 9-7, then beat Indianapolis in the playoffs before losing at Oakland. Pennington showed tremendous accuracy, poise and leadership.

"Chad has all the characteristics of a true role model," said Edwards. "He has great command and presence on the football field and is a team leader. He has a real passion to play football and is a quality person.

"Jets fans need to know one thing about Chad Pennington; he'll do whatever it takes to lead this team to a championship."

Added Martin:

"That's what you look for in a quarterback, even a young guy like Chad. You look to see how they lead your team. Chad is a leader."

A very rich leader.



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