Matt Leinart should be starting at quarterback in the NFL this season… at least, somewhere. Since Leinart was drafted as the tenth overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2006, a series of unfortunate events (i.e. a broken collarbone, a horrendous preseason, Paris Hilton) derailed Leinart from the fast track to superstardom. Now, during just his fourth season in the NFL, he finds himself blocked on the depth charts by a surprisingly resurgent fossil – I mean, quarterback – Kurt Warner. Leinart deserves a shot at a starting gig, if not in Arizona then somewhere.
Leinart has demonstrated immense talent. His college accolades are a testament to that, but he also has NFL experience. Leinart displayed flashes of brilliance his first season in the league throwing for 11 touchdowns and rushing for two more. In just 11 starts during the 2006 season, Leinart amassed 2,547 passing yards proving that he is more than capable of starting in the NFL, but he has not been given the opportunity to develop further. Leinart’s critics will point to his 12 interceptions that season and claim it was a sign of problems to come. Those critics should remember that a young Peyton Manning threw 26 touchdowns and a league leading 28 interception across four more starts than Leinart during his first season, and he turned out okay.
Serviceable quarterbacks are in high demand in the NFL in 2009. Numerous teams are looking to resolve QB questions in the upcoming 2010 draft, but Leinart serves as a unique and much better alternative. Leinart provides experience and affordability. The top two quarterbacks in last year’s draft received massive contracts, including $41.7 million (Matthew Stafford) and $28 million (Mark Sanchez) in guaranteed money. Leinart is currently in the fourth year of his six year deal, and his salary breaks down to an average around $6.75 million a year. His contract allows the team that acquires him a relatively cheap test drive. If they like him, they could sign him long term. If they find him a poor fit then they could part ways following the 2011 season. That is like offering a guy on a moped a $25 a month lease on a sports car. Who could turn that down?
You may be thinking, “Babe Ruthless, you are CRAZY! There is no way the Cardinals could afford to let Leinart go because Kurt Warner is way too old.” Let me assure you that I am crazy… crazy like a fox. You see, trading Matt Leinart is the right deal for both Leinart and the Cardinals. Warner has some gas left in the tank and many think he will remain the starter for the next two seasons. This creates a situation for Leinart not unlike what Aaron Rodgers faced just two seasons ago. Rodgers was blocked from the role of starter by living legend, Brett Farve, but the Packers waited till it was too late to make the most of both quarterbacks value. I suggest that the Cardinals strike while the iron is hot and trade Leinart for players that can make a difference now. The Cardinals could trade Leinart to a team in need of a new quarterback and get an upgrade that pays immediate dividends. I would bet that the Bills, Panthers, and more teams could find suitable trades that would benefit both teams. The Cardinals could get a trade that brings in a game-changing pass rusher like Julius Peppers or Aaron Schobel. Such a trade could bring the missing piece of the puzzle the Cardinals need to return to and win the Super Bowl, and allow Leinart to prove he has what it takes to lead a team.
Leinart must start somewhere, and soon. He is capable and ready to shine. If the Cardinals are not ready to give him the reigns, then the team should use him as trade bait to improve a team that is bordering on the cusp of greatness.