In carrying the Cardinals to the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance, quarterback Kurt Warner has enjoyed a renaissance in the desert. Now in his 11th season, Warner tossed for 4,583 yards (2nd in NFL) and 30 touchdowns (2nd in NFL) during the regular season and his rocket arm has not showed signs of fatigue in Arizona’s three playoff wins.
Warner heard his detractors following his shortened stint with the Giants back in 2004; many of whom suggested his glory years were behind him. He took a pounding from opposing defenses as he was sacked 39 times and was replaced nine games into the season by rookie Eli Manning. However, instead of retiring with a Super Bowl ring already on his finger, Warner decided to hang around the league. He joined the Cardinals prior to the 2005 season and the rest as you now know, is history.
Following Sunday’s Super Bowl, Warner will face another career decision. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent and the Cardinals will already have their own set of roster decisions. Warner will be 38 heading into next season and the Cardinals will still have former first-round pick Matt Leinart waiting for his opportunity. Warner has finally helped the Cardinals become relevant in shedding their infamous history, but will the franchise be willing to dish out millions to retain their leader?
The Cardinals historically have not been a franchise willing to throw money around and they already will have Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin clamoring for a new contract. Warner has not publicly approached thoughts on next season but it would difficult to envision him leaving the NFL after his great season.
If Warner chooses to test the free agent waters, potential suitors will certainly be calling. The Chicago Sun Times reported today that Warner’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, says his client will explore an otherwise weak quarterback market.
Warner would easily become one of the hot commodities in the free agent market and it certainly would not hurt for the Jets to give him a call. If Brett Favre chooses to retire, the Jets will be left with the unproven trio of Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge on their roster. Neither of the three appear to capable of becoming a full-time starter and the team’s potential options in free agency will likely be thin.
The Jets are currently $10 million over the cap, but that figure could easily change depending on Favre’s future and mutiple roster cuts. Aside from Warner, the most experienced quarterback in free agency could be Kerry Collins, but it would not be surprising to see him re-sign with Tennessee now that he has been promised the starting job. David Carr and Byron Leftwich would be younger, cheaper options, but both have been mired in inconsistency since being drafted in the first round. Both signal callers have displayed potential, but are they much of an upgrade over Clemens?
The Jets could also go the trade route and ask the Browns about Derek Anderson, but he could be costly. Even though Anderson struggled this season and was eventually benched in favor of Brady Quinn, he is still one year removed from a trip to the Pro Bowl.
There’s also of course Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel, but the Lions have a better chance of playing in next year’s Super Bowl than Cassel does of hitting the open market for the rival Jets to gobble him up.
After shelling out $160 million in contracts last season, the Jets are built to win now and they can only do so with a proven quarterback. Head coach Rex Ryan can tinker with the defense as much as he desires, but unless the Jets defense turns into the 1985 Bears or the 2000 Ravens, winning deep into January is unlikely. Warner would give the Jets a proven threat at the game’s most important position and he could also serve as a mentor for the team’s young quarterbacks. His presence would certainly fill seats at the Meadowlands and he likely would not be tossing nine interceptions in the most crucial strech of the season.
Warner could make every team’s decision simple by re-signing with the Cardinals or he could create a frenzy. Nonetheless, if the Jets wish to possess a rocket-armed quarterback not named Favre, they should turn toward Warner.
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