ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio wrote a piece today discussing the possibility that Kurt Warner will have to return half of his signing bonus, $7.5 million, if he announces his retirement on Friday.
No matter how notoriously cheap reports have claimed the Cardinals have been, this is a situation that they need to look the other way.
Warner was a huge reason why the Bidwill’s team was transformed from perennial loser to two-time NFC West champions. He’s a big reason why the Cards appeared in their first Super Bowl and he’s one of the main reasons that fans have packed University of Phoenix Stadium.
The financial impact Warner and his personality have had on this franchise well surpasses the $7.5 million he may be required to repay.
Yes, I know it’s expected of players and Warner isn’t above having to do that. The problem is, fans in Arizona aren’t forgiving when it comes to hometown teams “sticking it” to their favorite players. The Diamondbacks found that out the hard way when they parted ways with Luis Gonzalez. The Suns experienced and continue to experience backlash from trading Shawn Marion and not resigning Joe Johnson because of financial issues.
The one thing that the Diamondbacks and Suns have on their side was a history of winning. This is a luxury the Arizona Cardinals are lacking.
In a town that is notorious for its “fair weather” fans, a move that would play into the long-standing stereotype of the club being cheap and not wanting to win could prove detrimental to the momentum they have going. The team already faces an uphill battle trying to sell fans and season ticket holders on the idea of Matt Leinart as the starting quarterback. They have to do anything in their power to prove that the “new” Cardinals are here to stay.
Announce the $7.5 million will count towards a new “personal services contract” in which Warner will act as the franchises goodwill ambassador for the next 10 years (similar to what Luis Gonzalez is now doing with the D-Backs or what the Suns have done for years). Have him show up at events around the Valley, do charity work as a representative of the Cardinals and show up at events geared towards fans. It not only saves face, but it will keep Kurt as a part of the franchise and a constant connection to their Super Bowl run.
The Cardinals are about to enter one of the most important stretches in franchise history. Year one of AK (After Kurt) starts at 1 pm Friday when Warner is expected to officially retire. The front office needs to show a commitment to winning and treating players right. Any action that plays into the pre-Warner perception could cause fans to turn on the team.
If the Cardinals do ask Warner for the money back, they’ll undoubtedly get it back without any complaint. He's just that nice of a guy. They just need to ask themselves if the fans’ perception of the organization is worth more or less than the $7.5 million they stand to gain.