Quarterback saga continues

Former New York Giant quarterback Kerry Collins is headed to Oakland, while Tim Couch has filed a grievance against the Browns. Meaning it looks like the Bears can cross off two more veteran options to backup Rex Grossman.

The Bears never made a serious push for Collins, who the Giants released Collins a few days after acquiring top-pick Eli Manning from the San Diego Chargers.

Division rival Green Bay had scheduled a meeting with Collins last week, but the quarterback cancelled the visit because of the interest Oakland showed.

Collins is said to be looking for a starting position and visited San Francisco and Baltimore before signing a three-year deal with Oakland.

At 38, Rich Gannon is coming off a sub-par 2003 campaign that was cut short because of a season-ending shoulder injury in late October. After surgery, Gannon is reportedly healthy and ready to go, but the Collins signing puts Gannon's job and $7 million salary in '04 in doubt.

It appears the Bears will not pursue a quarterback even if Kurt Warner and Couch become available after June 1st.

However the never-ending soap opera of Couch took another twist when it was learned that he has filed a grievance against the Cleveland Browns, who barred him from reporting to last week's quarterback school or visiting team facilities.

The 14-practice quarterback school, while voluntary, includes 77 members of the team. Couch also was not allowed to practice at the recent mini-camp.

"Tim would definitely be there practicing with the team if he were allowed to," IMG associate Andrew Kessler told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "Even if he knew the Browns were going to cut him, he would still want to be there preparing to be the best quarterback he can be."

Asked about the situation, Browns coach Butch Davis reiterated that he has no intentions of releasing Couch on June 1. If released before June 1, Couch's prorated signing bonus of $3.4 million would all be dumped on the 2004 salary cap. If released on or after June 1, the bonus would be split on the 2004 and 2005 caps.

It's hard to imagine Davis' comments being anything other than a last-ditch ploy to wrest a draft pick out of a potential suitor. If the Browns are serious about keeping Couch as the backup, why not let him practice? Given the fragility of new starter Jeff Garcia and the inadequacies of the offensive line, the backup quarterback in Cleveland figures to get more than a few snaps of playing time.

By saying he has no plans to waive Couch, the message Davis wants to send to the rest of the league is "you're not getting Couch for free." The rest of the league, however, knows there's practically no chance the Browns will enter the season with former San Francisco 49er Garcia ($25 million over four years) as the starter and Couch and his hefty salary as the backup.

Couch said as much this week, telling the Plain-Dealer: "If they want me to be a backup for $7.6 million, I guess I could put everything behind me."

One other possibility is the Browns will keep Couch in hopes a team's starting quarterback gets injured during training camp or the preseason. That would give the Browns leverage in trade talks.


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