The Oakland Raiders released quarterback Kerry Collins on Friday, an expected salary-cap move that got delayed five days after the NFL and its union postponed the start of free agency.
The Raiders had to make the tough decision on the fate of Collins, who knew his time was probably up with the Raiders because he would be too expensive. By releasing Collins, Oakland will save $9.2 million against the salary cap once bonuses are factored into the figures.
The Raiders thought they would be forced to let Collins go Sunday after the NFL and its union broke off talks earlier in the day, failing to agree upon an elevated cap number that would have allowed teams to keep certain high-priced veterans. On Friday, Raiders senior assistant Michael Lombardi told the San Francisco Chronicle that, despite published reports that the team is pursuing Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, the Raiders have not made an offer to the Vikings.
The 33-year-old Collins went 7-21 record in two years as Oakland's starter and said at the end of the season he was willing to restructure his deal but would not play for "peanuts."
A phone call to Collins wasn't immediately returned.
The move leaves new coach Art Shell with Marques Tuiasosopo and Andrew Walter as the leading candidates to replace Collins if the team doesn't make a move to acquire another quarterback.
Tuiasosopo has just two starts in his five-year career. In 2003, he replaced the injured Rich Gannon to start against the Detroit Lions but suffered a season-ending injury to his left knee in the first half.
Tuiasosopo started one game last season against the New York Jets after Collins was benched but turned the ball over four times in the 26-10 loss and Collins regained the starting job the following week.
Walter, a third-round pick out of Arizona State last year, didn't play as a rookie. He threw for 85 touchdowns and 10,617 yards during his college career.
There are few elite quarterbacks available on the free agent market, with Drew Brees, Jon Kitna and Josh McCown being among the top players.
Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper, coming off a serious knee injury, has asked to be traded and the Raiders could try to make a move for him. Oakland acquired star receiver Randy Moss from the Vikings last season and could look to reunite the two.
Collins could end up in Baltimore to compete with Kyle Boller for the starting job with the Ravens. Baltimore's offensive coordinator, Jim Fassel, coached Collins with the New York Giants and went to the Super Bowl with him at the helm following the 2000 season.
The Raiders already made moves this offseason to reduce their payroll for next season. They released defensive lineman Ted Washington, offensive lineman Ron Stone and defensive back Denard Walker last week. They also declined a $10 million option for 2006 for safety Derrick Gibson. Those moves created more than $18 million in additional cap space for 2006.
Oakland also declined to use a franchise tag on Charles Woodson, who made $10.537 million last season.
The Raiders scored only 51 points, with just six touchdowns, in their final five games and lost their last six overall and eight of nine despite an offense featuring Collins, Moss, LaMont Jordan and Jerry Porter. At 4-12, they finished with one fewer victory than in fired coach Norv Turner's first season a year ago.
Perhaps the most glaring statistic is Oakland's failure to win a division game for the first time since owner Al Davis came aboard in 1963 to coach and eventually own the team. The Raiders went 1-11 against the AFC West during Turner's two seasons.
Collins started the season well, but couldn't maintain any consistency. He completed 302 passes for 3,759 yards -- his most since 2002 with the Giants -- and 20 touchdowns. He also was sacked 39 times and threw 12 interceptions.