Giants: Warner agent says they aren't a lock to land QB
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Star-Ledger Staff

Kurt Warner's six-year career with the Rams is expected to end today, after the NFL's 4 p.m. close of business. His career with his next team, possibly the Giants, officially could begin as early as tomorrow.

As teams make their June 1 cuts, Warner, the two-time league MVP who has won one Super Bowl and lost another, will be among the most intriguing players to watch. His signing with the Giants is viewed by many around the league as a foregone conclusion, particularly because the union would appear equally beneficial to both parties.

Not so fast, said Warner's agent, Mark Bartelstein. He called that assumption "definitely jumping to conclusions" and said he had discussed "no specific offers" with any club. The Giants were the only team to court Warner publicly last month, though Bartelstein maintained that more expressed interest.

Bartelstein expects Warner's release from the Rams to come tonight and said a signing will follow "very quickly." Warner became expendable in St. Louis after the Rams made a commitment to his former backup, Mark Bulger.

The Giants' quarterback of the future is rookie first-rounder Eli Manning. But Warner, who will turn 33 in three weeks, could be the veteran they need to have a chance to win this season.

Given permission by the Rams to explore his options, Warner visited the Giants on May 10-11, a trip Bartelstein described as "great." Warner left Giants Stadium with the impression he would have a chance to win the starting job, thus providing a unique opportunity to revitalize his career.

Several Giants players would feel more comfortable having Warner as the starter for the Sept. 12 season opener in Philadelphia, provided he is healthy. And his arrival would help to soothe the uneasiness in the locker room left by last month's release of starter Kerry Collins, who was highly regarded among his teammates.

The biggest question about Warner is his health. In his only start last season, he fumbled six times at Giants Stadium, leading to speculation that a thumb injury and concussion history would perhaps end a distinguished career as remarkable for its quick rise as sudden fall. Warner was given a physical during his visit and deemed healthy by the Giants medical staff.

The Giants have two minicamps this month, with the first beginning Monday. Coach Tom Coughlin would prefer a veteran quarterback signed and in attendance.

An off-season that already has seen incredible turnover -- the Giants have added 17 veterans through free agency or waiver claims in the past three months -- will see that total increase. June 1 has become a significant date on the league calendar because the salary-cap hit for players released after that date is spread over two years rather than one.

The Giants are about $8.5 million under the $80.6 million salary cap. The rookie pool will sap $4.4 million. The rest could be used to sign Warner, a middle linebacker to compete with Nick Greisen and/or a right tackle.

The Giants are believed to have some interest in middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who will be released by the Redskins, though that interest is hardly unanimous. Trotter, 27, has a surgically repaired knee and has developed a reputation that some former coaches and teammates see as disruptive.

Seattle defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes is one of Trotter's former coaches, and the Seahawks, who could use help at his position, have said they are not interested in him.

Among the offensive tackles who could become available are Arizona's Anthony Clement, Tampa Bay's Kenyatta Walker and Atlanta's Todd Weiner.

The Giants have some flexibility because David Diehl, who played right guard last season as a rookie, could shift over. Diehl played tackle at the University of Illinois and has worked there at times this spring.