Collins to sign with Oakland this week

Updated: May 23, 2004, 12:00 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

It appears that Kerry Collins' short visit to the unemployment line is about to end.

Rich Gannon
Gannon

Kerry Collins
Collins

Released by the New York Giants on April 28, only four days after the club acquired Eli Manning in a blockbuster draft day trade, the nine-year veteran quarterback is poised to sign with the Oakland Raiders later this week, various sources told ESPN.com.

The New York Daily News reported Sunday that Collins, 31, has agreed to a deal with the Raiders. Several sources to whom ESPN.com spoke over the last few days, said that there remains work to be done before the understanding between Collins and the club can even be termed an agreement "in principle." That said, all agreed that Collins made a verbal commitment to Oakland and that a deal will be in place this week.

How the addition of Collins affects incumbent starter Rich Gannon, the league's most valuable player in 2002 but sidelined for all but seven games last season by a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, remains to be seen.

Gannon is due a $7 million base salary and has a steep salary cap charge of $8.928 million. The Daily News reports that while the Raiders could try to restructure his deal, it is more likely Gannon will be released.

One source close to negotiations with Collins allowed that the two sides are "moving pretty steadily" toward an agreement and that "nothing is going to queer the deal." Said one source from another team that had demonstrated interest in Collins: "The handwriting is on the wall. They've just got to get it on paper now."

The contract will essentially be for three years although, given Oakland's penchant for stretching out deals to minimize salary cap impact, it could appear longer when filed with the league office. Collins will earn at least $4 million annually for the three years.

The structure of the deal is not known, so it's unclear if Collins will even approximate the $7 million he was to have made with the Giants in 2004. He could have remained in New York and received all that money, although distributed differently, but clearly was miffed when the Giants acquired Manning.

Basically, in a meeting with general manager Ernie Accorsi to discuss his future with the club, Collins forced a decision and his ouster quickly followed.

Collins visited recently with Oakland officials and is believed to have rejected a two-year offer that would have paid him backup-type money. But he revisited the situation with the Raiders after realizing that Oakland offered the best opportunity among his very few realistic options.

Last week, Collins canceled a two-day trip to Green Bay, and Packers officials actually believed it was because he was close to a deal with the Ravens. Baltimore offered Collins a one-year contract, and a chance to back up second-year veteran Kyle Boller, late last week, after the Ravens learned that No. 2 quarterback Anthony Wright will need shoulder surgery to correct at least a partially torn labrum.

That surgery, which will occur Monday, could sideline Wright the entire season. But the Ravens emphasized to Collins that Boller is their unchallenged starter and that he would not have an opportunity to oust him in camp. The only attractive element to the Ravens' offer is that it would have allowed Collins to go into the unrestricted free agent market again next March.

The opportunity with the Raiders, though, was too good to pass up, especially after the team raised its contract proposal. At worst, Collins will compete with Gannon for the starting job. More realistically, if Gannon continues to balk at reducing his salary, the Raiders will release him and Collins will move to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.

Known for his strong arm and ability to get the ball up the field, Collins figures to be a very good fit for the offense being installed by new coach Norv Turner and coordinator Jimmy Raye. Both men prefer a vertical passing game, as does Raiders owner Al Davis, rooted in a powerful inside running attack.

In nine NFL seasons, Collins has started 117 of 123 games, in stints with Carolina (1995-98), New Orleans (1998) and the Giants (1999-2003).

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.