Collins a happy camper

Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi and agent David Dunn kept losing their cellphone connection, forced to call each other repeatedly in order to finalize the remaining details of quarterback Kerry Collins' contract renegotiation and extension.

By the time the fractured conversation ended late Wednesday afternoon, Accorsi was lost somewhere in Albany. But more importantly, Collins had received the commitment he has coveted since the end of last season. Less than 18 hours before the first practice of training camp, Collins went from lame duck to top dog thanks to a two-year contract extension worth about $11 million.

As a result, the Giants secured their quarterback of the future and created about $1 million of breathing room under the salary cap, Collins escaped the stress of playing out a final year, and backup Jason Garrett returned to the team with a one-year, $650,000 deal.

"I want to be here and I'm glad this is not going to be my last season here," Collins said in the afternoon, casually sitting atop a table in a conference room. Far removed from the negotiating deadline he once pegged at July 1, he was relaxed and smiling.

"It shows a commitment on their part and it's nice to have the organization behind you and to know you're going to be the guy."

Collins' extension brings his current deal to three years worth $15.3 million. The base salary that would have cost the Giants $4 million this season (the last of his initial four-year free-agent contract) was reduced to the minimum $650,000 with the rest turned into a $3.35 million bonus. An additional $2.5 million bonus gives Collins up-front money worth $5.85 million. It also gives him security.

"When you're a lame-duck quarterback like I've heard I've been called, it could compromise leadership and that could raise other issues," Collins said. "I feel my leadership has progressed year to year and this allows me to do that even more."

Accorsi avoided the type of long-term deal that hurts the salary cap down the line, but at the same time showed his belief in Collins' ability.

"Kerry took us to a Super Bowl," Accorsi said. "It's the most important position on the team. If he goes out and has a good year and becomes a free agent - until you go out looking for a quarterback, you don't realize how difficult it is - this protects us too. It gives us peace of mind that way."

Collins did indeed take the Giants on their heady ride to the 2000 Super Bowl, though the 2001 encore was a disappointing 7-9 season. While he set franchise records in 2001 with 568 passes and 327 completions and became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw every one of his team's passes for two consecutive seasons, he also set an NFL single-season record with 23 fumbles.

His chance to remedy such inconsistency now stays in New Jersey.

"This contract gives me two more years to show them what I can do and I hope there's another one after that," Collins said. "It was tempting [to test the free agent market] but this is where I wanted to be. I got what I wanted: an extension with a team I wanted to be with."

And a team that clearly wants him too.
Jul 25, 2002