Collins heading to Oakland, shifting Ravens' plans

OWINGS MILLS – Kerry Collins has eliminated himself from the Baltimore Ravens' backup quarterback plans, likely shifting their focus toward Kordell Stewart or another veteran who hasn't been released yet. The former New York Giants starter agreed to a three-year offer with the Oakland Raiders to be finalized this week, according to the New York Daily News. Collins declined a reserve job behind Kyle Boller, an opening necessitated by Anthony Wright undergoing shoulder surgery Monday.

Team doctors are going to repair a partially torn labrum that could keep Wright out as long as three to six months.

Collins would have received a veteran minimum salary in Baltimore where he would have been reunited with senior consultant Jim Fassel, the former Giants head coach.

Meanwhile, the Ravens have begun discussions with Stewart, the mobile former Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers starter represented by Leigh Steinberg.

Stewart, 31, was the lowest-ranked starter in the league last season with a 56.8 quarterback rating. However, he does have a fairly strong track record in games against the Ravens.

Especially three years ago with Pittsburgh when Stewart produced a 2-1 mark against Baltimore in a Pro Bowl season where he passed for 3,109 yards with an 81.7 rating. In a 27-10 AFC divisional playoff win, Stewart completed 12-of-22 passes for 154 yards, one touchdown and one interception In a 26-21 regular-season game, Stewart completed 20-of-31 passes for 333 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions with 55 rushing yards. In an earlier 13-10 loss, Stewart completed 22-of-37 yards for 236 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

For his career, Stewart has a 70.7 rating with 55.8 percent accuracy, 77 touchdowns and 84 interceptions. He also has produced 38 rushing touchdowns and 2,851 rushing yards. The biggest knock on Stewart has been his lack of consistency and a tendency for extended slumps.

Collins' entrance in Oakland is expected to spell the exit of Rich Gannon, a 38-year-old with a $7 million base salary and a $8.928 million salary-cap figure. The Raiders are only $75,000 underneath the salary cap.

If Gannon is cut and joins former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay, that could push Buccaneers starter Brad Johnson onto the open market.

Johnson, 35, was pursued by Baltimore after Super Bowl XXXV after the Ravens cut ties with Trent Dilfer. He ultimately signed with the Washington Redskins and the Ravens wound up with enigmatic free-agent bust Elvis Grbac who retired after one season in Baltimore.

Johnson was with the Minnesota Vikings when Ravens coach Brian Billick was the Vikings' offensive coordinator. Billick was the tight ends coach in Minnesota who picked Johnson up at the airport in 1994 after the Vikings drafted him out of Florida State.

Johnson was a Pro Bowl selection in 1999 and 2002 who passed for 3,811 yards last season with 26 touchdowns, 21 interceptions and a 81.5 rating. If Gannon opts to retire and Johnson stays put in Tampa, Baltimore could also wait to see if Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis will release Tim Couch. Couch is at an impasse in contract talks with the Green Bay Packers that are critical to trade discussions.

The Browns have made it clear that they don't want to give Couch away, and that they don't like former players joining AFC North rivals.

The agent for Kurt Warner said Friday that Warner is close to a deal with the Giants to mentor Eli Manning, with a pact to be reached soon after Warner is released by the St. Louis Rams.

The Ravens have repeatedly stressed that whomever they bring in, if Wright is indeed unavailable, will not be allowed to compete with Boller, a first-round draft pick last year who was 5-4 as a rookie starter.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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