Monday, August 14, 2006

Matt Leinart Signed For Six-Years And $50.8 million - ESPN

ESPN's Len Pasquarelli says the problem was the incentives in the original deal. It's important to look at the fine points before signing.

Quarterback Matt Leinart, the former Southern California star and the 10th overall selection in the 2006 draft, on Monday night reached an agreement with the Arizona Cardinals on a six-year contract that has learned includes a maximum value of $50.8 million.

The basic six-year deal averages about $6.75 million per season and includes $14 million in guarantees. The value of the contract, negotiated by agents Tom Condon and Ken Kremer of CAA, will increase if Leinart reaches predetermined playing time levels that will then trigger so-called escalators in the latter years of the deal.

In fact, it was a battle over escalators that stalled the progress in negotiations, even as late as Monday afternoon. Only a few hours before the agreement, both sides appeared solid in their respective stances, and it appeared the talks might break off. Clearly, there was plenty of high-stakes bargaining Monday evening.

In the end, Cardinals officials agreed to an escalator package similar to the one featured in the contract of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich, a first-round choice in the 2003 draft. That contract, also negotiated by Condon and Kremer, stipulates that the escalators were triggered if Leftwich participated in 55 percent of the Jaguars' offensive snaps for two seasons, or 70 percent of the snaps in one season.

Under the Arizona proposal sent to Condon on Sunday, Leinart could have played every snap in his first three seasons, been injured in his fourth year and unable to play, and would not have realized any of the escalators in the deal. That proposal would have made the escalator thresholds the most difficult to reach of any quarterback chosen in the top 10 since 1993.

Escalators are critical in any first-round contract, but particularly for quarterbacks, because they reward the player for becoming a starter.

The deal on Monday evening came after nearly a full a week of inertia in which the two sides did not engage in substantive negotiations. Leinart's representatives had agreed nearly a week ago to accept the six-year contract, the maximum term allowed for a player chosen in the top half of the first round, even though they preferred a five-year deal.

It is believed that the Cardinals made about three to four different proposals to Leinart before altering their stance with a Sunday offer that got the two sides talking again.

The 2004 Heisman Trophy winner, Leinart, who posted a brilliant 37-2 record as the USC starter, is now expected to battle two-year veteran John Navarre for the backup job behind starter Kurt Warner. Navarre threw a pair of interceptions in Saturday's preseason opener. The consensus is that the Cardinals chose Leinart to groom him as the team's quarterback of the future.

During his celebrated college career, Leinart completed 807 of 1,245 passes for 10,693 yards, with 99 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions.

It is expected that Leinart will report to camp as quickly as possible. He had been in the Phoenix area two weeks ago, just before the Cardinals reported for camp, and was throwing with his new teammates. But when the talks broke down, and camp opened without him, Leinart returned to Los Angeles.

Oakland Raiders Offense Looks Terrible; Raiders Top Vikings 16-13

It's time to question just what offensive coordinator Tom Walsh is doing with this offense, and before it's too late. wire reports

MINNEAPOLIS (Aug. 14, 2006) -- Randy Moss wanted so badly to make a triumphant return to Minnesota.

He wanted to put on a show for the fans who supported him so steadfastly during his seven years here, and greeted him so warmly Monday in his first game at the Metrodome since the Vikings traded him to Oakland before last season.

Instead, Moss endured a frustrating night and voiced his displeasure with both coach Art Shell for the way he benched the receiver and the Vikings organization that shipped him away.

Moss had one catch for 16 yards and Aaron Brooks looked ragged again in the Raiders' 16-13 preseason victory.

"I just wanted to come in and see the fans and give them something really to scream about because I've had my fun here in this Metrodome and they've had theirs, too," Moss said. "That's one thing I really just wanted to come back and just give back to the fans. The organization? To hell with them."

Moss, who lit up the Metrodome in the first seven years of his career, started the night with a feet-stomping tantrum after Brooks didn't see him wide open in the end zone. He said he was angry because Brooks got flushed to the right while Moss was on the left and didn't fault the quarterback for not getting him the ball.

After making his only catch against second-team cornerback Dovonte Edwards in the second quarter, Moss was pulled. Moss stormed off the field and threw his helmet in disgust, stewing on the bench for the rest of the game.

"I was just more ticked because I've never in my career been taken out of a game, preseason, during a drive," Moss said with a puzzled tone. "It's funny to me. I don't call the shots. I guess I just go back to the drawing board."

That's a good plan for the entire Raiders offense.

Brooks finished 1-for-6 for 16 yards and was sacked twice by the new-look defense, which held the Raiders to no first downs and just 15 yards in one quarter of work.

Brad Childress made his debut as Vikings coach, and the West Coast offense he brought from Philadelphia is the antithesis of what Minnesota fans saw when Moss was in purple. Those teams lived off the big play, while the new Vikings will rely on short passes and a ball-control running game.

Brad Johnson was 5-of-6 for 32 yards for the Vikings, who scored their only TD in the first quarter on new fullback Tony Richardson's 3-yard run. Ryan Longwell added two field goals, but missed a 55-yarder that would have tied it in the fourth period.

Fourth-string quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan drove the Vikings to the Oakland 22 in the closing seconds and Childress elected to go for the win. Hiram Eugene intercepted O'Sullivan's desperation heave into the end zone to clinch Oakland's victory.

"I've gotten nervous before every game I've ever coached, and this was no different," said Childress, who has never been a head coach at any level. "It's nice to look out at that panorama, but you have to get right back on task."

The night was all about Moss, who made the Vikings one of the most dangerous offensive teams from the minute he arrived in 1998. Those Vikings were defined by the deep pass to Moss, which helped them reach an unprecedented level of popularity in the state.

His tenure was hardly perfect. He left the field with 2 seconds left in a regular-season loss to Washington two years ago; got in a minor scrape with a traffic enforcement officer in 2002; and verbally abused corporate sponsors on a team bus in 2001.

Not to mention his infamous "I play when I want to play" comment.

Nevertheless, plenty of fans wore his purple No. 84 jersey on Monday night, and still more donned his black No. 18.

"It makes me feel good to know that I'm still loved here, no matter what the bad blood that kind of built when I left," Moss said. "I think that they, the people in the stands with the 84s on and whatnot, I think they understand now that I'm a Raider and there's no coming back, and I don't really want to come back."

New Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin brought his version of the cover-2 defense from Tampa Bay, a scheme specifically geared toward stopping Moss' specialty, the big play.

Brooks, still looking uncomfortable in silver and black, took one shot downfield to Moss in the first quarter, but Moss caught the ball out of bounds.

Signed as a free agent from New Orleans, Brooks is just 2-for-9 for 28 yards, one TD and one interception in Oakland's first two preseason games.

"Obviously we'd like to have some more productivity out on the field, but it's still preseason, and it's a new system for pretty much all of us," Brooks said. "It's going to take time. I have patience."

Sebastian Janikowski's three field goals, including a 55-yarder in the first quarter, helped the Raiders overcome nine penalties.

The Raiders finally got into the end zone midway through the second quarter in Moss-like fashion. Andrew Walter hooked up with Johnnie Morant on a 67-yard touchdown pass for a 13-7 lead. Walter (10-for-19 for 148 yards and two interceptions) hit Morant in stride with a perfect pass down the left sideline.

Notes: Morant had five catches for 108 yards and the touchdown. ... Raiders WR Jerry Porter, who missed the opener with a calf injury, came out for warmups, but didn't feel ready to go.