So with Matt Leinart once again on the verge of losing the starting job that he was supposed to carry into the regular season, there have been rumors and speculation that the Cardinals could trade the 2004 Heisman winner who was the 10th pick in the 2006 draft.
As a league source explained to us on Monday, Leinart’s current contract isn’t conducive to a trade. He’s due to earn a base salary of $2.485 million in 2010, which is simply too much money for a guy who won’t waltz right in and take over another team’s starting job. More importantly, Leinart’s salary spikes to $7.36 million in 2011.
Thus, the Cardinals’ options will be to keep him or to cut him. Clark Judge of CBSSports.com thinks the latter could occur, because “the players there have no faith in the guy and don’t believe they can win with him.”
Judge points out that Leinart’s potentially negative influence on rookies Max Hall and John Skelton, along with the fact that the team probably would have to cut one of the promising first-year players if Leinart stays, favors severing ties with Leinart.
In our view, Leinart’s recent comments regarding his tenuous status suggest that, on a broader scale, Leinart simply doesn’t get it. It’s not a trait that any NFL team wants or needs from its starting quarterback.
That said, we think that two factors favor his ongoing employment for at least one more year. First, the Cardinals need a semi-competent quarterback on the depth chart behind Derek Anderson, in the event Anderson royally stinks it up or gets injured. Second, if/when a salary cap returns for 2011, the Cardinals could cut Leinart then — and pick up $6 million in credit toward next year’s salary floor.
If Leinart finds himself on the open market, it makes sense for his college coach, Pete Carroll, to provide a safe harbor. If Carroll doesn’t, it pretty much tells us all we need to know about Leinart.