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JETS: Lynch tells Herm no / Former Bucs safety decides not to rejoin former coach, signs with Denver; Tongue will replace Garnes

Another week, another free- agent loss for the Jets.

After seeing cornerback Antoine Winfield back out of a contract agreement

to sign with the Vikings less than three weeks ago, the Jets yesterday lost out

on strong safety John Lynch. Not even Lynch's close relationship with Jets

coach Herman Edwards was enough to sway the five-time Pro Bowl player, who

opted for the Broncos' three-year, $9-million deal.

"When John and I first spoke two weeks ago, we talked about the process and

we discussed how John needed to do what was best for him and his family,"

Edwards said yesterday in a statement. "Denver is closer to home, and we wish

John and his family all the best."

After being informed early yesterday that Lynch was headed for Denver, the

Jets wasted little time adding another strong safety. They signed Seahawks free

agent Reggie Tongue, who enters his ninth NFL season.

But Lynch was clearly their first choice to replace Sam Garnes, who was

released before the start of free agency. The Jets had pushed hard to sign

Lynch, 32, who credits Edwards with turning around his career when they were

together in Tampa Bay. They're so close that Lynch is the godfather to Edwards'

son, Marcus.

The Jets' negotiations with Lynch began Friday and continued through the

weekend, but Lynch settled on Denver, which is closer to his home in San Diego.

Lynch is convinced the Broncos have a legitimate shot at getting to the Super

Bowl, and he might have had doubts about the Jets' chances to do that.

Lynch is scheduled to speak to the media in Denver today.

Tongue was a second-round pick of the Chiefs in 1997 and has played in 155

games, including 99 starts. Jets general manager Terry Bradway was a Chiefs

scout when Kansas City drafted Tongue. Terms of the deal were not released.

"Reggie was one of the players we targeted at strong safety," Edwards said.

"He adds toughness and leadership to our defense and has proven to be a

productive and durable player."

Tongue played for the Chiefs from 1996-99 and with Seattle from 2000-2003.

Last year, he had 63 tackles, two sacks, four interceptions, eight passes

defensed and two forced fumbles.

"There is definitely a positive energy with the Jets," Tongue said, "and I

feel I can add to it and help this team win."

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