A pair of veteran backup quarterbacks who out-shone the starters they replaced in 2007 are in high demand as the agency period prepares to open early Friday morning.
According to a league source, Minnesota is offering Houston a third-round 2008 draft pick in exchange for backup Sage Rosenfels, who went 4-1 last season in place of injured Texans starter Matt Schaub. Houston, which finished a franchise-best 8-8 last season, is said to be seeking a second-round pick in exchange for Rosenfels, who is not a free agent.
And in Washington, the Redskins' efforts to retain free-agent-to-be Todd Collins included new head coach Jim Zorn on Thursday flying to Boston on owner Daniel Snyder's private jet to meet for the first time with Collins, who lives in North Quincy, Mass. Washington is believed to have already made at least one contract offer to Collins, who went 3-0 as a starter in the regular season for the Redskins, and won a fourth game in relief of the injured Jason Campbell. Washington made the playoffs as an NFC wild card entry on the strength of that four-game December winning streak.
When free agency opens at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Collins is expected to receive interest from several teams. Speculation has centered on teams such as St. Louis, where former Redskins offensive coordinator Al Saunders is now in the same position with the Rams, Jacksonville, and possibly Miami and Atlanta. The Rams are expected to release backup Gus Frerotte to clear both salary cap space and a path for Collins to back up starter Marc Bulger.
The Dolphins and Falcons are teams that might draft first-round quarterbacks and could be interested in Collins as a veteran who could bridge the gap between 2008 and whenever the young quarterback is deemed ready to start. In addition, the Super Bowl champion New York Giants are another team known to be in the market for a more experienced backup, behind Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.
Washington wants to retain Collins, 36, but Zorn made it clear at last week's NFL scouting combine that he would return only as Campbell's backup, and not be allowed to compete with the fourth-year veteran and 2005 first-round pick for the Redskins starting job.
Campbell is thought to be in line to receive a contract in the range of $2 million-$3 million per year for two or three seasons. In his four regular season games last season, Collins threw for five touchdowns, no interceptions, for 888 yards and a sterling 106.4 quarterback rating. He completed 63.8 percent of his passes.
Rosenfels, who turns 30 next week, started Houston's final four games, winning three of them. He finished his seventh NFL season with 15 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions, a 64.2 completion percentage, 1,684 yards and a solid 84.8 passer rating. Those statistics outdistanced Schaub's efforts as a first-year starter in Houston. Schaub went 4-7 in the 11 games he started, with nine touchdowns, nine interceptions and 2,241 yards passing.
Minnesota is seeking to bring in veteran competition for third-year quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who went 8-4 as a starter in 2007, but threw just nine touchdowns, with 12 interceptions and had a mediocre 70.8 passer rating. The Vikings on Wednesday released 11-year veteran Kelly Holcomb, who started three games last season, going 0-3. Brooks Bollinger (one start in 2007) also remains on the Vikings quarterback depth chart.
Minnesota finished 8-8, losing all four games that Jackson did not start. That turned out to be the difference between Minnesota making or missing the playoffs in head coach Brad Childress' second season with the Vikings.