By now we've all heard the reports that Kurt Warner is looking for a salary somewhere around the average of the top five quarterbacks in the league. The Arizona Cardinals have reportedly raised their offer to the $10-12 million dollar range, but that's still at least a couple of million short of the average ($14.6 million). Towards the end of the season and shortly after the Super Bowl it was a widely accepted theory that Warner would sign a two year deal for around $18 million, but that number has obviously grown. So how high are the Cardinals willing to go?
As with most contract negotiations, exterior forces are complicating things for the Cardinals. The biggest monkey wrench was the Patriots tagging Matt Cassel, thus guaranteeing him $14.65 million this season and that has to be in the back of Kurt's mind. Warner's a fair guy but he has to believe that he's a much better player than Cassel and therefore should get a commensurate salary. We all know that the Cardinals have the cap room to pay Warner like an elite quarterback and Matt Leinart's salary isn't a burden (yet). It is in the best interest of the Cardinals to pay Warner nearly $15 million per season for two years?
The Case For Warner: Warner's case for big, big money is simple, he was arguably the best QB in the NFL last year and he took the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl berth in franchise history. He finished second in the league in yards and completion percentage and third in touchdowns and QB rating all while being supported by the league's worst running game. Simply put, Warner was the Cardinals' offense in 2008. On top of everything he does on the field, he's also the biggest and best leader on the team and calling him a positive influence on the locker room would be a huge understatement. Bottom line: His production warrants it.
The Case Against Warner: The case against Warner is based less on tangible facts and more like a list of 'what if's' than anything else. His age and inability to stay healthy have to be considered if he wants to be paid like an elite QB. His commitment to the game also has to considered (he almost retired in mid season after Q's injury). Rarely do guys who will be 38 years old before training camp starts sign new deals for top tier money but that's what the Cardinals are considering. Even though he's shown an amazing ability to play through injuries, he's never been able to play a full 16 games in consecutive seasons. Any talk of Warner's future is of course also linked to Matt Leinart and his future so it's worth mentioning that a contract of $15 million a year pretty much guarantees that Warner is the starter for 2009 and 2010, or at least that's how Leinart will see it. Bottom Line: His age and injury history prohibit it.
We will most likely find out the answer to this dilemma by the end of the week considering that Rod Graves is trying to get a deal in place before free agency starts on Thursday night. For now though we ask you, where should the Cardinals ceiling be in terms of a contract offer for Kurt?