Collins, who took the Giants to the 2001 Super Bowl, said his goodbyes Monday after five years with the team. Collins' days in New York became numbered when the Giants acquired Eli Manning in a draft-day trade on Saturday.
"Unfortunately, the economics of the system we work in today determine these most difficult decisions," Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi said on Wednesday. "For me, I felt a personal identification with Kerry, and I will miss him."
Manning's salary made it almost impossible for the team to have cap room for two highly-paid quarterbacks. Collins was scheduled to earn $7 million next season, but would have cost the Giants $8.95 million of the $80.6 million salary cap.
During his meeting with Accorsi on Monday, Collins said he would not renegotiate his contract.
"I figured there was no reason to hang around," Collins told The Associated Press.
Accorsi denied he suggested the quarterback take a pay cut,
as Collins asserted.
"He may have misunderstood," Accorsi said, adding that the
restructuring would have involved turning some of the salary into a
signing bonus and adding "voidable years" that Collins would
almost surely opt out of.
Another factor: Collins' impression that new coach Tom Coughlin
seemed ready to make Manning the starter almost immediately.
"Ernie told me that he felt Eli was one of the three or four best college quarterbacks he's seen in the last 20 years," Collins said. "Someone like Elway or Marino. Someone like that."
Collins was the first draft pick ever of the Carolina Panthers
in 1995 and quarterbacked them to the NFC championship game in
their second season in the league.
But two years later, plagued by problems with alcohol, he walked
into the office of coach Dom Capers and said he had to quit. The
Panthers released him and he was picked up for the rest of the
season by New Orleans.
The Giants signed him in 1999, and they helped rehabilitate his
life and career. He started seven games that season. The next,
Collins led them to the NFC championship, throwing for 381 yards
and five touchdowns in a 41-0 win over Minnesota in the conference
In the Super Bowl two weeks later, he was 15-of-39 for 112 yards
with four interceptions in a 34-7 loss to Baltimore. That contrast
typifies Collins -- he is among the best in the game when protected,
but limited by a lack of mobility and vulnerable to pressure.
Still, he started 67 straight games before spraining his ankle
last season, when the Giants' horrible offensive line was the main
factor in their 4-12 finish.
That finish put them in position to have a shot at Manning
because it gave them the fourth overall pick in the draft.
Neil O'Donnell has drawn interest from the Giants as a replacement to Collins and backup/tutor/mentor to Manning. According to the New York Post, the Giants inquired about O'Donnell last weekend in the hours after trading for Manning.
"Neil is intrigued and flattered; they think highly of him," O'Donnell's agent, Steve Rosner, told the Post.
O'Donnell's career was thought to be over once he was released by the Titans late in training camp last year. But with Steve McNair and Billy Volek out with injuries, Tennessee was desperate for a QB and wound up signing O'Donnell, who started the team's regular-season finale and threw for 232 yards and two scores.
O'Donnell, a 15-year veteran, turns 38 on July 3.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.