Warner Back in Arizona, But at What Cost?

While most of the Cardinal faithful are ecstatic about Kurt Warner sticking around in Arizona, his flirtation with the San Francisco 49ers rendered mixed emotions. Warner can't be blamed for testing the free-agent market, but did the 37-year old signal caller need to do so with a division rival? Brad Wilbricht explains.

The news of veteran QB Kurt Warner re-signing with the Arizona Cardinals is now dated information, but the way it happened may be another story. Warner was allowed to test the free-agent market by the Cardinals' front office and did just that. Although it seemed he had absolutely no intention of leaving the desert, he decided to head up north and meet with the San Francisco 49ers.

Warner went on the public record multiple times stating his heart is in Arizona and not in San Francisco, or anywhere else for that matter. Prior to his trip to the Bay Area, he discussed his wishes to stay in Arizona and affirmed those sentiments again immediately following his time with the 49ers.

There lies a legitimate question: why did Warner make the visit? Was it an attempt to obtain more money? Was it an act of revolt after the Cardinals didn't immediately give into his demands? Given how the new parties have since agreed on a very generous contract, particularly in guaranteed money, we'll probably never know.

Just months removed from an improbable Super Bowl berth, it looked as if Warner and the franchise he has helped resurrect may have been headed for a messy divorce. Warner and agent Mark Bartelstein were demanding a multi-year deal that would rival that of the top-five quarterbacks in the NFL and allow Warner to play for a minimum of two more years if he so desired.

Anquan Boldin

Following his trip to San Francisco, Bartelstein reported that the 49ers had offered a lucrative two-year contract. He then was gracious enough to offer Arizona a hometown discount to keep its now beloved leader. Additionally, they would allow on even larger discount if the Cardinals were able to restructure the contract of disgruntled WR Anquan Boldin.

However, San Francisco officials quickly denied reports that they had offered any contract at all, leaving many Arizona fans scratching their heads about why Warner and Bartelstein would fabricate the truth.

While many are quick to point out that Warner may have been underpaid the past few seasons, he was given a career-saving opportunity after the Cardinals signed him in 2005. In addition, they rewarded him with a new three-year deal in 2006.

Prior to his arrival in Arizona, Warner's stock was arguably at an all-time low. His fairytale run to success with the St. Louis Rams had worn off and he was becoming a dispensable player that could have ended up out of the NFL completely.

Warner had fallen out of favor with the Rams and was released following the 2003 season. He then spent one year with the New York Giants, warming the seat for QB Eli Manning, before being ousted again.

The lack of loyalty Warner showed was somewhat alarming but not surprising in this day and age. Even though the NFL has essentially turned into a strictly business venture, a player like Warner isn't expected conduct business like everyone else. Obviously that wasn't the case and Warner decided it was time to cash in.

Sure, Warner is coming off a tremendous campaign but prior to 2008 he failed to play an entire 16-game season since joining the Cardinals. Furthermore, Warner hadn't played in more than 14 contests in a season since 2001. His desire to be compensated amongst the top-five quarterbacks in the league looked to have been quite a reach.

Matt Leinart

After the Dennis Green era ended in 2006, Warner could have been left on the outside looking in. However, new coach Ken Whisenhunt kept him around and even allowed the veteran to compete for the starting position. Arizona had previously invested a first-round draft pick on QB Matt Leinart and could have easily handed him the keys until he failed miserably.

While Leinart wasn't a total disaster on the field, Warner quickly proved he gave the Cardinals the best chance to win. Instead of being buried on the depth chart, like he could have been on other teams, Warner was given a substantial amount of reps and ultimately ended up winning the starting job.

Now that the former Super Bowl MVP is back in good standing in Arizona, many have already forgotten the selfish actions from an individual who's perceived as such an outstanding citizen both on and off the field.

The Cardinals' front office ultimately gave into Warner's demands and awarded him with a deal probably deemed higher than his true market value. GM Rod Graves served up a two-year, $23 million contract which included $19 million in guaranteed money.

Unfortunately, this has become the nature of the NFL. Even Warner can't escape the business aspect of an entertainment driven league. As time passes, players such as Warner will be few and far between and eventually become extinct completely.

Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at brad.wilbricht@gmail.com
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