Arizona Cardinals Need to Keep Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin to Stay on Top

Tom HighwayCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2008

In today's Arizona Republic, Cardinals GM Rod Graves was reported to be optimistic that the club would be able to extend wide receiver Anquan Boldin's contract.

Although the two sides have not negotiated since last summer, "He's made it clear he didn't want to talk until the end of the season," Graves said. "My sense is he's enjoying this team and likes playing with Kurt and in this offense."

And therein lies the key issue with keeping Boldin—Kurt Warner's continued presence.

If the Cardinals do not re-sign Warner, an unrestricted free agent after this season, the Cardinals will likely turn to Matt Leinart in 2009. What would this mean for Boldin and the other wide receivers?...And what would this mean for the future of this year's NFC West Champions?

Well, first of all, the dropoff from Warner to Leinart is almost too steep to fathom...It would likely resemble the dropoff from Tony Romo down to Brad Johnson.

With identical weapons at wide receiver last season, Matt Leinart averaged a measly 129 passing yards per game (lowest in the NFL), posted a 61.9 passer rating (also lowest in the NFL), only 5.8 YPA, and only completed about 53 percent of his passes.

Through five games, he tossed one touchdown to Boldin and zero to Larry Fitzgerald. And Leinart threw two interceptions for every touchdown. Were he not injured, he was on pace to finish the season with six touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and 2070 yards.

That same year, after Leinart's season was ended with a broken collar bone, Warner finished with an 89.8 passer rating and tossed one touchdown per game each to Fitzgerald and Boldin, and finished in the top-10 in most QB categories—including touchdowns, yards per game, touchdowns per game, completion %, YPA, etc, etc...

In the second half of 2007, Warner threw even more TDs than Tom Brady during his record-breaking season.

While Leinart is known to lock onto his check-down receiver, Kurt Warner is the master at locking onto four or five targets simultaneously. This season, there's a very good possibility Warner will have three wide receivers finish with over 1,000 yards, and that's only been accomplished twice before in NFL history.

It is unchallengeable fact that Boldin and Fitzgerald were under-used with Leinart. Were the Cardinals to return to Leinart, history has shown that Fitzgerald and Boldin again become the most expensive decoys in the NFL. It's as elementary as Leinart+Fitzgerald+Boldin+Bryant Johnson=129.

And can anyone imagine combining Leinart with Arizona's pathetic running game? I can, and it looks like an ugly 2-14 season.

If Graves and the Bidwills do not re-sign Warner, then the entire house of cards falls down. With a return to Leinart and 129 passing yards per game for all receivers to divide up, Boldin knows that his future market value would drop considerably. Kurt Warner simply must be re-signed.

And finally, would Graves and Whisenhunt really want to take the huge risk of letting an MVP-caliber quarterback walk to the Vikings, especially with Leinart's history of fragility?? After all, Matt has suffered two season-ending injuries in his last five sacks!