How many more big names will the New York Mets have to sign in an attempt to keep from collapsing late in the season?

Last year they added Johan Santana but they still crumbled.

Jack Curry of the New York Times reports that the Mets think that righthander Derek Lowe, who is among the starters remaining on the free-agent market, would be the best addition to their club. So they have offered Lowe a three-year contract for about $36 million, according to people who have been briefed on the discussions.

Lowe, who has a superb sinker, was 14-11 with a 3.24 earned run average for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He is the Mets' priority over Oliver Perez, who has pitched for them since 2006.

Scott Boras, the agent who represents Lowe and Perez, would not comment specifically to Curry about the Mets' offer to Lowe. But he said, "Obviously, we've taken offers from a number of teams." Boras also said he was still talking to teams and was establishing Lowe's value. Lowe is believed to be seeking a five-year, $90 million deal, according to the Times article.

When the Mets pursued free agent Francisco Rodriguez, they benefited from being one of the only teams willing to spend for a closer, Curry wrote. Before the season ended, there was speculation that Rodriguez would receive a $75 million deal. The Mets signed Rodriguez for about half that, giving him a three-year, $37 million deal.

The Mets hope that the same happens with Lowe, and that he eventually falls to them for less than the $18 million a year he is seeking. Boras would not say how many teams had made offers to Lowe, but he said there were more teams involved in talks with Lowe than a week ago.

If the Mets are unable to sign Lowe, they will pursue Perez, who was 10-7 with a 4.22 ERA. They also may go after Randy Wolf, who, like Perez, is lefthanded. The former Phillie was 12-12 with a 4.30 ERA for the San Diego Padres and the Houston Astros.

No Jets job for Cowher

Mets fans should hope that their team fares better than the New York Jets did with Bill Cowher.

Newsday's Bob Glauber summed it up in one word for the Jets faithful: Bummer.

Just as the team was preparing to make a pitch to the former Pittsburgh Steelers coach to become the successor to Eric Mangini, Cowher slammed the door on the Jets, Glauber wrote. He didn't even want to interview.

"After reaching out to Coach Cowher's representatives," a Jets spokesman said about 11 last night, "we were informed that he is not a candidate for the position."

A source familiar with the Jets' situation said the conversation never got around to anything other than Cowher's just not being interested.

"It was similar to Cleveland," the source said, referring to Cowher's declining an opportunity to be considered for the Browns' vacancy. "It never advanced to the point of scheduling a formal interview. Material items such as structure, money and length of contract were never discussed."

The Super Bowl-winning coach would have added the kind of charisma and juice a guy with an ironclad resume offers, Glauber wrote, adding that Cowher easily was the most attractive of any candidate.

Including Mike Shanahan, who is on the market after being fired by the Broncos yesterday afternoon.

If Cowher was going to work for the Jets, then he would have had to do so on team owner Woody Johnson's terms. And that meant working within the organizational framework that Johnson had structured, something he spelled out during Monday's news conference announcing Eric Mangini's firing.

The Jets certainly were willing to make accommodations for Cowher, who is known to want a major say in personnel decisions if and when he does return. And general manager Mike Tannenbaum was willing to cede some personnel power if that's what it takes to bring Cowher to New York.

But Tannenbaum wasn't the one who ultimately would have decided whether Cowher would have been the right fit for the Jets. It was Johnson.

Cowher just wasn't interested.