Collins understands cap situation

Now that Al Davis has ended the league's longest coaching search this offseason and Art Shell is assembling the rest of his staff, the Raiders can turn their attention to the roster. Specifically, Oakland needs to figure out — and quickly — whether or not Kerry Collins is the quarterback to run the offense for another season.

Though Collins fell out of favor with Raider fans in 2005, the veteran quarterback appears to have the support of Davis and Shell, though neither man is willing to go on record and say definitively that Collins will be their man in ‘06.

"I just got here," Shell said when first broached about Collins during the Feb. 11 press conference announcing his hiring. "All I can say is Kerry Collins has been an outstanding quarterback. Matter of fact, I spoke with Kerry just before I came down here. He is excited about moving forward next year. But look, he is an exciting quarterback. I think he has a chance to be great for us. But those issues will be addressed down the road." Collins started 15 games for Oakland last season, the only blemish coming late in the season when the Raiders opted to start back-up Marques Tuiasosopo before changing their mind after one game.

The 33-year-old quarterback passed for 3,759 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2005, the third-best marks of his career in both categories. But those numbers were tempered by Collins' 53.5 completion percentage — his lowest since 1998 — as well as Oakland's 4-12 record.

In 28 games with Collins as the starting quarterback, the Raiders are just 7-21. Davis did not talk about Collins's situation during the Shell press conference but he did back in January when speaking to reporters shortly after announcing his decision to fire Norv Turner. Davis hinted he felt Collins was unfairly blamed for what went wrong with the Raiders' offense this past season and said Oakland has more pressing concerns than changing quarterbacks.

"I think Kerry did adequately well considering other facts that are not seen by the press nor the fans," Davis said at the time. "He had no running game and our pass protection slipped."

Collins was sacked an eye-popping 39 times last season, had a quarterback rating of just 77.3, and never could get Oakland's offense in a steady, consistent rhythm. Despite the offseason additions of wide receiver Randy Moss and running back LaMont Jordan, the Raiders finished 21st in total offense and were only 23rd in scoring, averaging just 18.1 points a game.

Collins's inability to form a cohesive union with Moss particularly made him a target for criticism. Though Moss finished with 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns, he only caught 60 passes and went long stretches in games without getting so much as a single pass thrown his direction.

Shell figures to have his hands full trying to work his way through the wreckage of the past three seasons, all of which have ended with the Raiders at the bottom of their division. To change quarterbacks might entail even more pressure for the team's new — and old — head coach.

Still, there are other factors that will come into play regarding Collins. He originally signed a three-year contract but restructured the deal last year and was given an extension through 2009. After earning the veteran's minimum of $765,000 in ‘05, Collins is set to get a hefty pay raise to $6 million next season then $8.5 million in each of the succeeding three years.

Suffice it to say, some more restructuring with Collins's contract will have to take place before anyone can even begin to think about who will be Oakland's starting quarterback in 2006, a fact Collins knew all too well as he spoke with reporters following the Raiders' season-ending loss to the New York Giants.

"I understand my salary cap situation," Collins said. "I'd like to be here. All I can do is make my thoughts known. I know there are things I can do better. I really tried to end this thing on a positive note."

Collins is due a significant roster bonus in March so he expects something to be worked out, one way or the other, before then. He also said that while he prefers to remain with the Raiders, he's not willing to take a massive pay cut to stay.

"I want to be here but I'm not going to play for peanuts," Collins said. "I feel we can work something out."

If the Raiders do decide to part ways with Collins, their options for a replacement would be slim. Tuiasosopo is expected to ask for a trade or to be released, while the only other quarterback on the team's roster, Andrew Walter, just completed his rookie season and has yet to play a single down in a regular-season game, not to mention the fact that he recently underwent surgery to repair his damaged groin.

The free agent market appears pretty bare as well. Veterans Drew Brees, Jon Kitna and Jeff Garcia are the best of the lot, though Brees is all but certain to be re-signed by San Diego. Kitna and Garcia would be serviceable but not for the long haul, thus the Raiders would probably shy away from releasing Collins in favor of either of those two.

Oakland probably won't find much help in the draft either. Barring a trade to move up from their current draft position, the Raiders won't have a shot at either of the top two quarterbacks coming out this year, Texas' Vince Young and USC's Matt Leinhart.

Collins' Raiders Stats
2004 OAK 14 4-10 289 513 56.3 3,495 6.8 21 63 20 74.8
2005 OAK 15 4-11 302 565 53.5 3,759 6.7 20 79 12 77.3
Oakland Totals:  19 8-21 591 1,078 54.8 7,254 6.7 41 79 32 76.1

SB Report Top Stories