Will Matt Leinart Become Trade Bait?

With the NFL Draft just over a month away, the Arizona Cardinals are determining how to improve on a stellar 2008 campaign. One method could be trading Matt Leinart for valuable draft picks. There are multiple teams in need of a starting signal caller and Leinart may be one of the best options currently in a backup role. Brad Wilbricht outlines where Leinart might land if he becomes available.

While the Arizona Cardinals haven't given up in QB Matt Leinart just yet, the team may be willing to part ways if the right deal comes about. Leinart has struggled with inconsistency and injuries up to this point in his career and now finds himself behind veteran QB Kurt Warner. Warner recently re-signed for two more seasons, delaying Leinart's return to the starting lineup even further.

Leinart was selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2006 draft and looked to be headed for greatness early in his career. In his rookie season, Leinart threw for over 2,500 yards and 11 touchdowns in just 12 games. Furthermore, his QB rating of 74.0 was more than adequate for a first-year starter.

From that point on, things went downhill for Leinart. He broke his collarbone in Week 5 of the 2007 season and missed the remainder of the year. Leinart was continually hailed as the Cardinals' starter heading into 2008, but he lost those duties after a suspect preseason. Warner replaced Leinart as the full-time starter prior to the season opener and responded by leading Arizona to its first ever Super Bowl berth.

While Leinart (6'5", 232 pounds) has prototypical size, his lack of arm strength has hampered him up to this point in his career. In addition, Leinart has fallen under scrutiny for his lack of focus on and off the field.

Kurt Warner

If the Cardinals decide to target a quarterback in this year's draft class, Leinart could be deemed replaceable with Warner still at the helm. Warner has essentially committed to play two more seasons and that would allow Arizona to restart its process of grooming their next option under center. There are several mid-round prospects with potential that could interest the Cardinals come draft day.

Outside of the Green Bay Packers, the NFC North division is in desperate need of capable quarterbacks. The Detroit Lions currently have Daunte Culpepper as their starting quarterback but will more than likely invest a high draft pick on a younger option. Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears have been in search of a long-term solution at quarterback. Kyle Orton is the starter for now but he has plenty of skeptics in the Windy City.

Another possible landing spot for Leinart could be with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While it's probably a long shot, the Buccaneers arguably need a starting quarterback more than anyone in the league. Due to the retirement of Brett Favre, the New York Jets are also looking for their heir apparent. However, the Jets already have Kellen Clemens on the roster and his stock is similar to that of Leinart.

The Minnesota Vikings were in the market for a new quarterback, but their recent trade for Sage Rosenfels may have satisfied them for the time being. Rosenfels has been an exceptional backup for the Houston Texans and is expected to dethrone incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson as soon as this year.

Leinart may be in need a fresh start but his value is at an all-time low for the Cardinals. Unless someone offers Arizona a deal they can't refuse look for Leinart to be back in the desert next year. Given the injury history Warner has experienced during his career, the former USC Trojan could be called upon earlier than expected.

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