Collins could have helped

Wait a minute. The 49ers' cross-bay rival Oakland Raiders just signed quarterback Kerry Collins? Don't the Niners need an established veteran QB such as Collins much more than the Raiders, who already have a recent NFL MVP (Rich Gannon) and a young heir apparent (Marques Tuiasosopo) on their roster?

Sure they do. But Collins going to the Raiders is another strong indication it is not going to happen - now or later this summer.

The Niners reportedly had contact with Collins after Tim Rattay was injured earlier this month, but it obviously was nothing serious. And the fact that Collins was swooped up by the Raiders - a team that has salary-cap issues like the 49ers, but aren't letting those problems stop them from loading up with free agents this offseason to remain competitive - is the latest greatest example that the 49ers will stand pat with Ken Dorsey as their top signal-caller this summer while Rattay recovers from his groin surgery.

As general manager Terry Donahue explained earlier this month, the Niners' thought process toward bringing in an established veteran at the position hasn't really changed despite Rattay's injury.

"When we departed ways with Jeff Garcia, we clearly took a risk," Donahue said. "He is an accomplished NFL starting quarterback who can win. We took that risk for a lot of good reasons (and) those reasons with Tim's injury really haven't changed at all. So we knew that there would be risk involved when you do that. Tim is not gone for the season, and we have to look at (Dorsey), (Brandon) Doman and how much they will benefit with and without another quarterback in here."

That said, the Niners' primary issue in this scenario is money, and the team isn't interested in disrupting its two-year cap-clearing plan to free up cap space to hire a guy like Collins, who was released by the New York Giants after the draft when he was unacceptable to the idea of a pay cut from his scheduled $7 million salary for 2004.

For those thinking the Collins signing might make Gannon available and a possibility for the Niners, forget it. Gannon, 38, said recently he wouldn't accept a pay cut from his $7 million salary to stay with the Raiders and, while his thinking obviously will change now if the Raiders release him as expected and he seeks a job with another team, Gannon still will be looking for more than the Niners would be offering.

And what is that? Well, considering what has transpired since Rattay's injury - which is basically nothing - the only realistic scenario that has the Niners bringing in a veteran quarterback circles around this possibility: After June 1, when the team can - and will - clear some cap space, the Niners may free up enough room to add a veteran QB. But that QB almost certainly will be expected to play for the top veteran's minimum salary, which will limit the field to aging players well past their prime who are desperate for one final chance to show they still can do it.

Kerry Collins isn't that kind of guy. And that's why the Niners - who could have used him - had no chance to get him.

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