Quarterback Kurt Warner's remarkable six-year stay with the St. Louis Rams officially ended yesterday when the club released the two-time NFL most valuable player. He could have a new team today, when agent Mark Bartelstein is scheduled to discuss possible contract parameters with New York Giants officials.
"I know we're going to talk to the Giants, and we'll see what happens," Bartelstein said by telephone early last night. "We'll see how it goes [today] when we talk contract with them. It's possible that it could be done [today], but I don't know that. There's nothing preventing it."
Another veteran quarterback, Vinny Testaverde, was released by the New York Jets as the league's annual June purge began. Teams take advantage of the salary cap rules that enable them to delay most of the cap hit for releasing a veteran player by a year by making the move after 4 p.m. on June 1. Executives around the league expect Testaverde to sign with the Dallas Cowboys or New England Patriots.
Warner's departure from St. Louis had been expected for weeks and clears the way for him to try to revive his career elsewhere, probably in New York. Warner, who turns 33 in three weeks, is winless as a starter over the past two seasons after taking the Rams to two Super Bowls and winning two MVPs in a three-season span between 1999 and 2001. Some observers have questioned whether Warner will be healthy enough again to recreate the magic that made the former grocery-store employee and Arena League alum one of the best success stories in league history.
The Rams saved $4.75 million against their salary cap for the upcoming season by releasing Warner. He would have had a $4.75 million salary and counted $9.5 million against the $80.5-million cap had he remained with the club -- too much for a player who lost his starting job to Marc Bulger. The Rams signed Bulger to a four-year, $19.1 million contract extension last month. They signed veteran quarterback Chris Chandler as a free agent in March to back up Bulger and selected Michigan State's Jeff Smoker in the sixth round of the draft in April to occupy the third spot on the depth chart.
The Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears apparently are among the teams that have expressed interest in Warner, but the Giants have pursued him ardently since releasing veteran quarterback Kerry Collins in the aftermath of the their draft-day trade for top overall pick Eli Manning and being rejected by veteran quarterback Neil O'Donnell, who decided to retire rather than help mentor Manning.
Warner visited the Giants last month after he and Bartelstein were given permission by the Rams to begin talking to other teams. If Warner signs with the Giants, he probably will agree to a one-year contract that would enable him to be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. He could begin the season as the Giants' starter, but the club seems committed to giving Manning extensive playing time as a rookie.
"Kurt would very much like to get something done quickly somewhere so he can get with his team, start learning the playbook and start getting comfortable," Bartelstein said. "This is a great opportunity for him to get back to where he was."
Testaverde turns 41 in November but still can throw, as he demonstrated last season while filling in for the injured Chad Pennington. He has played previously under Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells and Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, and a reunion with one or the other seems likely. He perhaps would compete with Quincy Carter for the starting job in Dallas, and would give New England a veteran insurance policy in case Tom Brady gets hurt while the Patriots pursue a third Super Bowl title in four seasons. The Patriots' backup is Rohan Davey.
The Arizona Cardinals released five players, including former starting defensive tackles Marcus Bell and Barron Tanner. They also released tight end Steve Bush, quarterback Preston Parsons and safety Justin Lucas. Jacksonville re-signed veteran defensive end Tony Brackens, who was released by the Jaguars in a March salary-cap move. Brackens signed a more modest one-year deal loaded with incentives.