Collins a safety net

The Oakland Raiders signing quarterback Kerry Collins made most people draw conclusions about Rich Gannon's future being over – not so, says head coach Norv Turner.

The Raiders signed Collins, whom the New York Giants released after acquiring Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning, on Monday. Turner, who is in his first season as Oakland's head coach, verbally ended speculation about Gannon being released and added that he is still the starting quarterback.

Like most of his teammates, the 39-year old's performance plummeted last season after earning 2002 NFL MVP honors in leading Oakland to a Super Bowl appearance. Gannon sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in a Week 7 loss to Kansas City and lost his replacement, Marques Tuiasosopo, for the season one game later forcing No. 3 man Rick Mirer into duty.

So, the 31-year old Collins is, for now, an insurance policy the Raiders did not have last season.

Collins has a stronger arm than Gannon and his ability to throw the deep ball should fit in well with Turner's new offense and owner Al Davis' model for a quarterback.

The 6-foot-5, 248-pound Collins was the first draft pick ever of the Carolina Panthers in 1995 and led them to the NFC championship game in their second season.

Alcohol problems ended his career in Carolina two years later, and after a brief stop in New Orleans, he joined the Giants in 1999 and righted his life and career. Collins led them to the NFC championship before losing to Baltimore in the Super Bowl. His most productive year came in 2002 when he threw for 4,073 yards.

Collins started 67 straight games before spraining his ankle last season, when the Giants finished 4-12. He threw for 3,110 yards with 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 2003.

Collins said it was difficult to find another starting job being released so late in the offseason. The opportunity to play for the Raiders and the knowledge that Gannon is on the backside of his career made this the most appealing spot.

Gannon, meanwhile, is due to make $7 million dollars this season and has said that he would not take a cut in pay.

As important as Collins' signing is, a healthy Gannon is still Oakland's best option. Granted, Collins' stronger arm is a better fit for Turner's offense but Gannon has the ability to run the offense with better efficiency assuming he is healthy. Of course, that could potentially be a big "if." While Gannon's personality is salty and overly stubborn, he's a better option than Collins in that category too.

Collins could have a few more productive seasons in him and that's why it's in Oakland's best interest to have a safety net.

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