NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans started free agency with a thud. They rebounded quickly by holding onto their starting quarterback.
Kerry Collins agreed to a new contract with the Titans on Friday after leading Tennessee to an NFL-best 13-3 record. “This is where I wanted to be, and my family loves Nashville,” Collins said. “It is just part of the process. Free agency comes about, and there are lots of talks and rumors. At the end of the day, this is where I want to be, and I am happy it worked out.”
Coach Jeff Fisher had said he wanted the 36-year-old veteran back. Collins had said he wanted to play again in Tennessee.
“Kerry did a great job for us last year stepping back into the starting role,” Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said in a statement. “He has veteran leadership, tons of game experience and we expect him to continue to play at a high level for us.”
The Titans had tried to keep Haynesworth but failed to reach a long-term deal before last July’s deadline after tagging him as their franchise player for 2008. To get him into training camp, they agreed to include incentives that allowed their No. 1 pick of 2002 to test free agency, and he met each with a career-high 8 1/2 sacks and a second Pro Bowl berth.
Reinfeldt met with Haynesworth’s agent at the NFL Combine last weekend, but the general manager said the Titans were unable to bridge “large gaps.”
That meant turning attention to the top opening on offense, and the Titans announced they had a deal with Collins by midafternoon. The two-year deal is worth approximately $15 million, according to a person familiar with negotiations who requested anonymity because the team did not release the terms.
And yes, Collins is expected back as the starter ahead of 2006 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Vince Young.
“If he comes back, for all intents and purposes, he’s our starter, and Vince waits,” Fisher said before the start of free agency.
Collins was relieved to get the deal done and thanked owner Bud Adams, Reinfeldt, Fisher and the other coaches in comments released through the Titans. He said he drew interest from other teams but forgot about those when talks sped up with the Titans.
Now he wants to improve on a season that ended with a divisional playoff loss to Baltimore.
“We need to look at taking it a step further,” Collins said. “We had a great regular season, and it didn’t end up the way we wanted it to in the playoffs, but we have the nucleus and the people to take another run at it and I am glad to be a part of it.”
Collins has spent the past three seasons with the Titans. He started the final 15 games of 2008 and won 12. That doesn’t include winning the season opener when he came off the bench to relieve an injured Young.
The veteran had an 80.2 passer rating in 2008 that was the third highest of his 14-year career. He threw for 2,676 yards with 12 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He led three game-winning drives in helping the Titans land the AFC’s No. 1 seed and was sacked only eight times.
Collins was the fifth overall pick in the 1995 draft by Carolina and signed as a free agent with Tennessee in 2006.