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Leinart, Cards Finally Come Together

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Leinart, Cards Finally Come Together

Postby Dr. Duran Duran » Tue Aug 15, 2006 10:16 pm

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Even though Matt Leinart may have lost millions by returning to USC for his senior season, he is still plenty rich.

Now he has some serious catching up to do.

The 2004 Heisman Trophy winner ended a two-week holdout Monday night and signed a six-year contract that guarantees him $14 million and could bring the rookie quarterback up to $51 million. He was the last of this year's first-round picks to sign.

Announcement of the deal came hours after Cardinals coach Dennis Green sharply criticized Leinart and his representatives for turning down "a more than generous" offer.

Leinart was to join the Cardinals three days before the Cardinals end their camp at Northern Arizona University and move workouts to their practice facility in Tempe. Arizona plays at New England on Saturday.

The left-handed quarterback who directed USC to two national titles and a 37-2 record, Leinart might have been the No. 1 pick in the draft last year but decided to remain at USC for his senior season. This year, he unexpectedly fell to the Cardinals at the No. 10 spot, a tumble that cost him millions.

He was the first quarterback chosen in the opening round by the Cardinals in 19 years. The last quarterback, Kelly Stouffer, never played for Arizona.

That wasn't going to happen this time, with the Cardinals riding a wave of fan support following the signing of free agent running back Edgerrin James, the drafting of Leinart and the opening of their $455 million stadium.

Leinart was the second quarterback chosen in the draft, behind Vince Young of Texas, who went to Tennessee with the No. 3 pick overall. Quarterback Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt went to Denver at No. 11, one spot after Leinart.

Young signed a six-year contract worth up to $58 million, with $25.7 million guaranteed. Cutler signed a six-year deal worth as much as $48 million, with $11 million guaranteed.

Leinart's contract includes escalator clauses that boost his pay the more he plays.

He participated in all of the Cardinals' summer workouts so he is familiar with the offense, but he will have to make up for crucial lost time if he expects to beat out John Navarre for the backup spot behind starter Kurt Warner.

"I think everybody knows that the more days you miss, the more games you miss, the farther and farther you fall behind and the harder it is to catch up," Warner said.

Green's criticism focused on what the coach said was far more than a 10th pick normally would receive. A grumpy Green was upset with the perception that Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill was being cheap.

"I've been here two years," Green said. "All I know is when we set out a strategy, whether it be signing Bertrand Berry or drafting Larry Fitzgerald, Bill Bidwill has helped us get that player."

He said the signing of James was the best example.

"Edgerrin James is as big as they come," Green said. "We had our powder dry and we got a guy who's been the most significant back in the National Football League over the last seven years."

Leinart's absence was magnified when John Navarre threw two interceptions in Saturday's preseason opener against Pittsburgh.

Warner, speaking before the deal with Leinart was announced, said he understood Green's frustrations.

"Coach wants guys to help us win and Matt's one of those guys that's going to make our team better," Warner said. "That sometimes can get frustrating as players, as a coach, because so much of that is out of your control."
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