Leinart Rumor: Nipping It at the Bud

Rumors continue to circulate that Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart is on the market, and that the Oakland Raiders are among the few teams as potential suitors. The team officially acknowledged those rumors, and S&BI chimes in on the affair.

A quarterback goes on the market, and the Raiders are rumored to be one of the potential suitors.

And you thought the team was past this, didn't you?

ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported today that the Oakland Raiders are among three teams who have inquired the Arizona Cardinals about embattled quarterback Matt Leinart.

Leinart, who many thought would assume the starter's role this season after the retirement of Kurt Warner, was passed over by free agent acquisition Derek Anderson as the Cardinals' number one man-under-center.

Leinart, the former USC Trojan and 2004 Heisman Trophy recipient, made it known in recent days that he's none to pleased about his current situation, and apparently, Cardinals management feels the same way about their former first round pick.

WANTED: A CAPABLE QUARTERBACK

"Where, and how, do the Raiders fit into all this," you may ask.

The 2010 offseason was amuck with rumors of a few high profile quarterbacks that were on the move, and in the thick of it all were the Oakland Raiders.

Of course, there wasn't ever any doubt that the Raiders needed a new quarterback. JaMarcus Russell had worn out his welcome by midseason of last year, and his release in early May was an embarrassing relief for the organization. Bruce Gradkowski, despite endearing himself to fans and having the utmost respect of the locker room, has never been the model of a franchise quarterback. As much of a winner "Bruce Almighty" may be, owner Al Davis has always envisioned someone that fits the mold of a big and strong quarterback to helm his offense.

And so, when Donovan McNabb was shopped around by the Eagles, the Raiders were there. When Ben Roethlisberger was rumored to be on the move, the Raiders were there.

Even lesser names like Sage Rosenfels and Troy Smith were thrown around as potential acquisitions.

McNabb was probably the closest the Raiders got to a big time trade, before the Eagles surprised a few folks and sent their franchise quarterback to their NFC East divisional rivals, the Washington Redskins.

WHAT'S THE WORD?

All those talks came to an end in a dramatic fashion however, when on April 24th, during the fourth round of the NFL Draft, the Raiders acquired Jason Campbell.

With Campbell at the top of the depth chart, it looks like the Raiders have their quarterback for 2010 and beyond. The release of JaMarcus Russell was simply putting the pedal to the floor for the Raiders, and a clear sign that the franchise was ready to move forward with their new quarterback.

Which makes these most recent rumors regarding Leinart all the more perplexing.

There are a few reasons why the Raiders would be interested in Leinart, but there's really only one that might hold some credibility.

On Sunday, Head Coach Tom Cable told the media that in addition to suffering a stinger against the 49ers, Campbell had injured his wrist as well. Campbell did some throwing on Monday, but when the media was allowed to view practice on Tuesday, he did not participate.

Also, after Cable informed the media of Campbell's wrist on Sunday, he backtracked a bit on Monday, and since then, the team has taken a hush-hush approach to revealing injury information-much like they do during the regular season.

There are many people who are wondering what prompted Cable to suddenly hold his tongue since Sunday, and it's got some thinking that Campbell's wrist injury is more serious than the team has let on.

Although Bruce Gradkowski has proven himself to be a capable starter, losing Campbell for any amount of time would be a blow to the organization. Could it be then, that Campbell's injury is more serious than first believed, and that the Raiders are looking at Matt Leinart as a contingency plan?

The rumors aren't even a day old, but Campbell's injury coupled with Cable's sudden silence just adds more fuel to the Leinart fire.

Publicly, the Raiders immediately went on the offensive and stated on their official Twitter account: "The Raiders have never discussed trading for Leinart. The Raiders are very happy about their quarterback situation."

Now, historically, the Raiders are known among media circles as the kings of misinformation. That is, the team is notorious for refusing to acknowledge rumors, for withholding certain information, and sometimes, pleading ignorance in certain situations when the exact opposite is true.

Call it a strategic ploy, but with the Raiders, you can never discount anything. Sure, some things hold more weight than others, but until a rumor is buried, it's always in play.

MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL

Even though you can't completely discount the Leinart rumors, it doesn't make much sense for the Raiders.

Forget the fact that Leinart has proven very little at the professional level, but the biggest trump card in all of this is Bruce Gradkowski.

Prototype franchise quarterback he is not, but Gradkowski has proven himself to be a winner. He might not have the size, rocket arm, or the flashiness that Al Davis would like, but anyone, even Davis, can overlook all of that if it means winning.

Gradkowski lost significant ground during the offseason due to Campbell's acquisition, but primarily because of a torn pectoral muscle and the subsequent surgery.

Despite the setback, Gradkowski has always had the confidence of the coaching staff, and last Saturday against the 49ers, Gradkowski more than made up for lost time with a resounding performance: 14-22, 202 yards, and two touchdowns.

If Campbell's wrist injury is more serious than the team has let on, Cable and staff need not look any further than Gradkowski. In little under two years in Oakland, Gradkowski has shown himself to be a capable leader in the locker room, and a winner on the field.

If the Raiders were to bring in Leinart, who is the polar opposite in every way of the humble, blue-collar Gradkowski, he would be no better than second on the depth chart. If Leinart is so unhappy as the number two man in Arizona, who is to believe he'd be any happier as the number two man in Oakland?

(It is not a given that Leinart would even be third on the depth chart, as Kyle Boller has performed well enough during training camp and the preseason to secure that spot.)

Forget the financial burden the Raiders might potentially adopt, but Leinart hasn't exactly proven to be the model of maturity since entering the NFL. Of course, in a previous S&BI article, we discussed how (it seems) the Raiders are placing a higher priority on character, so Leinart would be bucking the trend.

Regardless of whether Campbell's injury is serious or not, Matt Leinart would be the worst offseason move for the Raiders in 2010. Why do the rumors continue? Perhaps the national media will always lump the Raiders with any embattled quarterback who is on the market, but unlike the rumors involving McNabb or Roethlisberger, this one should be squashed immediately.

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