Market for Collins may not open up


It won't be known until Thursday whether delaying free agency has closed the Ravens' window of opportunity with quarterback Kerry Collins.

In an unusual move even by Oakland Raiders standards, Collins was taken off the free-agent market Sunday night when the NFL postponed the deadline for teams to get under the salary cap. The Raiders, whose owner personally informed Collins of their plan to release him Sunday, now have the time - and perhaps the money - to rework Collins' contract.

If the owners accept a revised revenue-sharing deal today, it likely means an increase of this year's salary cap by $10 million or more, which could directly affect Collins' future. Under a new plan, Oakland's cap excess could possibly go from $14.8 million to a workable $3 million.

The Raiders then could get under the spending limit by shaving a few million off Collins' $9.1 million cap number with a restructured contract or by releasing a few veterans such as linebacker Danny Clark ($1.3 million cap savings), fullback Zack Crockett ($2 million) and defensive end Bobby Hamilton ($4 million).

By midnight Thursday, Oakland will reveal whether it has cut Collins again or created enough cap room to keep the 11-year veteran.

Collins is widely considered the top option for the Ravens, although no team official has publicly confirmed it. Collins, 33, had the best statistical seasons of his career under then-New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, who has since become the Ravens' offensive coordinator.

The Ravens are looking for a veteran quarterback to compete with inconsistent Kyle Boller for the starting job.

Besides Collins, the Ravens could have the chance to pursue Tampa Bay's Brian Griese, Miami's Gus Frerotte or Washington's Patrick Ramsey if they are released for cap reasons. Another possibility is unrestricted free agent Chris Weinke, the long-time backup in Carolina.

The Ravens are still not expected to go after San Diego's Drew Brees, who is regarded as the top free-agent quarterback available. Matching Brees' asking price - which could escalate with the new cap limit - would severely limit what the Ravens could do the rest of free agency.

It also appears unlikely that the Ravens will land Cincinnati's Jon Kitna, who is rumored to be headed to Detroit.

While the quarterback market has yet to heat up, the free-agent running back pool is beginning to dry up.

Seattle's Shaun Alexander and Green Bay's Ahman Green each re-signed with their teams, leaving Indianapolis' Edgerrin James and the Ravens' Jamal Lewis at the top of the list. Denver's Mike Anderson, who was cut last week, would be a notch below them.

It'll be interesting to see where Ravens backup Chester Taylor fits among these running backs. According to the NFL Network, Taylor is seeking a contract similar to the one given last year to LaMont Jordan (five-year, $27.5 million deal with a $7 million signing bonus). Taylor's agent, Ken Sarnoff, did not respond to messages yesterday.

Note -- If the Ravens are unable to retain nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu, they could go after veterans Ted Washington or Sam Adams, who were both released last week. The Ravens have not yet contacted Angelo Wright, the agent for both

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