Redskins, Collins Agree To Deal

By Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Washington Redskins reached an agreement with backup quarterback Todd Collins yesterday, accomplishing their main goal on the first day of free agency. Terms of the deal were not announced, but league sources said Collins, who strongly considered signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars, received a three-year, $9 million contract.

"I was flattered by Jacksonville's interest," Collins said. "They really made it a tough decision, they gave me a lot to think about, but Washington really is where I want to be. It's just the right place for me."

Sources said the contract, which includes a $3 million signing bonus, will pay Collins $1 million next season, $2 million in 2009 and $3 million in 2010. Since the signing bonus is spread over six years, Collins's salary will count $1.5 million toward the upcoming season's salary cap.

With a modest $3.5 million in cap space at the outset of free agency -- pending renegotiations with Clinton Portis and Santana Moss will provide approximately $4 million more -- the Redskins focused their efforts on retaining some of their own free agents, Collins chief among them. Washington often has set the market for players during owner Daniel Snyder's tenure, but the Redskins, who as of yesterday had no visits scheduled with free agents, will take a wait-and-see approach early in the process while bargain hunting, executive vice president Vinny Cerrato said.

"We're being smart," Cerrato said. "We're not just going out there and throwing money around. It's not like we have to find three starters. . . . We'll see what happens after the crazy money is spent. There could be some guys you'd like to get in on down the road if prices drop."

All-pro wide receiver Randy Moss is not among the team's free agent targets, Cerrato said recently.

The Redskins moved quickly to retain Collins, 36, a member of the team the past two seasons. Snyder, Cerrato and new head coach Jim Zorn considered Collins -- who shined as a starter during the run to the playoffs while filling in for the injured Jason Campbell -- to be a linchpin of the team's offseason plan.

Zorn traveled to Quincy, Mass., to meet with Collins on Thursday, eating lunch in the player's home town and reiterating the Redskins' interest in him. Although Zorn made it clear that Campbell will be the starting quarterback, Collins said the coach "also stressed the importance of having a guy ready to deliver if something happens to the starter. He felt like I proved that last year. He thought it was important for me to come back to the team because I proved I can do that."

Collins led Washington to four consecutive victories after taking over when Campbell dislocated his left kneecap in the second quarter of a 24-16 victory over the Chicago Bears on Dec. 6. Collins, primarily a backup throughout his 13 seasons, led the Redskins to all their points against Chicago and received high marks from coaches and players for his performance in helping Washington clinch only its third playoff appearance in the last 15 seasons.

During the winning streak, Collins completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 888 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a 106.4 passer rating.

"He really helped us get to the playoffs last year, and you like to see a guy go in throwing the way he did as a backup," said right guard Randy Thomas, who played in only three games last season because of a triceps injury. "Golly, a lot of teams would like to have a type of quarterback like that. The nature of the game, people get hurt."

After a four-game losing streak, the Redskins were 5-7 when they faced the Bears. Collins -- who had not thrown a pass in a regular season game since Dec. 19, 2004 -- entered late in the second quarter.

Collins finished games well, completing 71 percent of his passes after halftime with a 105.9 passer rating. His closing ability was a welcomed attribute on a team that lost five times last season -- and 15 times since 2004 -- in games in which it had led at halftime. Collins struggled during a 35-14 first-round playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, but he impressed overall, the Redskins said.

"What Todd showed was that he could come in and win games for you and play well," Cerrato said. "That's what we appreciated, that's what we looked at, and when the new coaches came in they liked it.

"And I think he has the confidence of the players. So if Jason were to go down again, it's not like, 'Oh, the season is over.' We have a guy who has come in before, won games, and they would be confident in him. That's why he was such a priority."

Retaining Collins was a good move, Campbell said.

"It's a positive for us because you never know when a guy has to come in and be able to play," Campbell said. "He did an outstanding job last year. It's been great working with him over the last two years and I'm excited to have him back."

Although Collins performed well in relief of Campbell last season, Campbell is confident in his position on the team. "Deep down inside, I know I'm the starter, and this is my team," he said. "I just want to focus on the things that I need to do to become one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL."

Redskins Notes: The Redskins don't plan to re-sign third-string quarterback Mark Brunell, who is hoping to land a job as a primary backup somewhere. "We'll be looking for a young guy in the draft" to play behind Campbell and Collins, Cerrato said. . . .

Miami is interested in signing right guard Jason Fabini, a league source said. Fabini, a converted tackle who filled in at guard when Thomas was injured, has strong ties to Bill Parcells, Miami's executive vice president of football operations. . . .

The Redskins have released pro scout Terry Ray, sources said. Ray has spent eight years in the NFL, the past three with the Redskins. . . .

Former running backs coach Earnest Byner is expected to agree to the same position with the Tennessee Titans next week, sources said.

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