If Kerry Collins had played the forthcoming season as an impending free agent, he suspected his words to his Giants teammates would have sounded hollow — empty pronouncements from a lame-duck quarterback. He believed his stature would have dropped and climbed from game to game, play to play, like some Wall Street stock.
But Collins got the contract extension he sought today. Not the five- or six-year contract he wanted, necessarily, but the additional two years he needed, for credibility, for peace of mind. "I want to be here," Collins said. "I'm glad this is not going to be my last year here."
Collins's deal for this season is being restructured in such a way that the Giants will save about $1.4 million in salary-cap space, and with the extra cash they will sign the veteran quarterback Jason Garrett for $650,000. In a corresponding move, they will release quarterback Phil Stambaugh, who makes $300,000, for an overall savings of $1.05 million.
Tight end Jeremy Shockey, the Giants' first-round draft pick, does not have a contract, and is not expected to participate in the first workouts of training camp Thursday. A club official believes Shockey may not join the practices until the weekend, but any delay will not alter Shockey's expected role in the offense: Collins is going to throw the ball to him again and again.
The major obstacle in negotiations does not appear to be a deep, evolving rift between the team and Shockey's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, who has characterized the talks as "positive" several times. General Manager Ernie Accorsi believes the holdup is that Shockey's market value has not been clarified. Only 9 of the 32 players selected in the first round had signed by this evening, and most of those were either drafted much earlier or later in the first round; the price tag for Shockey's slot in the draft — 14th over all — has not been established.
"I understand where he's coming from," Accorsi said, referring to Rosenhaus. "But unfortunately, the player suffers."
Rosenhaus said: "We have a feeling about what Jeremy should get, and the Giants have a position. We're not really relying on what's happening with other players, and they're confident enough to not be concerned about what's happening with other teams.
"It's a lot like other talks, back and forth. I'm very optimistic we're going to get something done."
Wide receiver Tim Carter, the second-round selection, agreed to terms, and barring a travel problem, he should be at Thursday's workout. He will field passes from Collins, whose three-year restructuring — which extends through the 2004 season — could result in a total realized package of about $17 million.
Collins, who was to receive a bonus of $2.5 million, will receive a $5.85 million signing bonus under the terms of the new deal. His base salary for 2002 will be $650,000, and he could make $8 million in salary and another $2 million in incentives for the last two years of the contract.
Collins, 29, led the team to the Super Bowl in 2000 and had taken every snap for the Giants over the last two seasons, and the long-term deal he wanted would probably have represented the last big payoff of his career and locked him in as the team's quarterback for the foreseeable future. But Collins was coming off a season in which he often played erratically and set a single-season record for fumbles, and Accorsi balked at the suggestion of a major deal in March, just as he rejected the demands of defensive end Michael Strahan.
But while Strahan's talks collapsed in a nasty manner, a line of communication remained between Accorsi and Collins's agent, David Dunn. There was virtually no movement in the negotiations for almost five months, and Collins felt some anger and frustration. Earlier this month, Dunn recommended that Collins begin preparing for training camp as if this would be his last season with the Giants. "It didn't look good until 1 or 2 o'clock today," Collins said.
The Giants agreed to give Collins a larger signing bonus, and Collins agreed that his restructured contract would extend only two more years. If Collins plays well this season, the Giants will gladly hold on to him for the next few years. If he struggles, their financial obligation is not so prohibitive that they cannot look elsewhere for a quarterback.
But that will be evaluated in the years to come, and Thursday, Collins can lean into the huddle and know that on a young team relying on veteran leadership, his words will have more gravity.
July 24, 2002