Warner signs 3-year, $18M deal with Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals rewarded quarterback Kurt Warner for his loyalty and efficiency during the 2005 season.

Warner signed a three-year, $18 million contract that should be worth between $20 million and $24 million should he perform as he did last season, ESPN.com's John Clayton reported Tuesday. The two-time MVP completed 64.5 percent of his passes and had a quarterback rating of 85.8 in his first season with the Cardinals.

After the season, Warner told coach Dennis Green and the Cardinals that he wanted to return and stay as the starter. Negotiations for a contract began then and concluded Tuesday afternoon with a three-year deal. Warner signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Cardinals in 2005 and lived up to all expectations.

"I think what it does demonstrate is that we're committed to
building a strong nucleus for our football team, and part of that
effort is making the right decision about the players you re-invest
in," Cardinals vice president for football operations Rod Graves
said from the club's headquarters in Tempe. "We just consider Kurt
Warner part of that process, to reinvest in quality people and
quality players."

Warner's new contract doesn't mean the club will ignore
quarterback prospects in this spring's NFL draft. "It does not
preclude us from taking a look at the quarterback position in the
draft," Graves said.

The signing of Warner officially begins the NFL offseason and takes perhaps the top free-agent quarterback off the market. New Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz was willing to sell Warner to his new team as an option to challenge Joey Harrington for the starting job after the two patched up their relationship last season.

Warner clearly resurrected his career in Arizona. He started 10 games last season, completed 242 of 375 passes for 2,713 yards and 11 touchdowns. When he was playing, the Cardinals had the best passing numbers in the NFL, and he did it despite a running attack that was missing. The Cardinals averaged only 71 rushing yards a game and only 3.2 yards a carry. The lack of a running game made the Cardinals one-dimensional and put more pressure on Warner to move the ball through the air.

Warner will make $7 million this season not counting incentives.

Warner burst onto the NFL
scene in 1999 for the St. Louis Rams, earning MVP honors after throwing for 4,353 yards and a league-high
41 touchdowns.

Warner capped that outstanding campaign with
an MVP performance in Super Bowl XXXIV, leading the Rams to a
23-16 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Two years later, Warner again was named league MVP after posting
4,830 passing yards and 36 touchdowns as St. Louis made a
return visit to the Super Bowl.

After a six-year run with the Rams, the 34-year-old Warner spent
2004 with the New York Giants, holding down the starting job
before rookie Eli Manning took over to finish the year.

Injuries between 2002-03 curbed Warner's run with the Rams but
the three-time Pro Bowler still owns the best completion
percentage (65.7) in NFL history and his quarterback rating of
94.1 is second all-time to Hall of Famer Steve Young.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from SportsTicker and The Associated Press was also used in this report.