Shutdown Corner - NFL

If I had to rank which stories I thought would be the biggest and most important heading into the NFL's offseason, I'd put the possibility of Kurt Warner's retirement right at the top. That's not the way it will play out, since Brett Favre and Terrell Owens sell papers and make your mouse click, but that's how I see it.

We're talking about the key cog on a Super Bowl team here, and if we have to start looking at the '09/'10 Arizona Cardinals with Matt Leinart stepping into Warner's shoes, a return to the Super Bowl suddenly seems like a long shot. Warner's not putting a timetable on the decision, but he has revealed a couple of things about his decision making progress.

First things first, God is calling the shots.

"I'm going to weigh everything and I'm sure I'll talk to the Cardinals and see what their plans are for the future," Warner said as he and the other players cleaned out their lockers on Tuesday. "When I get all the information I can sit back and pray about it and see what God leads me to do."

Secondly, the choice appears to be between retirement and continuing his career with the Cardinals, according to the extremely optimistic Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic:

He will be back. And he likely will sign a new, two-year contract extension - possibly in the neighborhood of $18-20 million - to try and lead this once-woebegone franchise right back into glorious history.

Give it two weeks, three weeks tops.

That was the word circulating through the Warner camp before and following the Cardinals' 27-23 loss to the Steelers in Tampa. And unless management completely drops the ball and short-changes the quarterback at the negotiating table, it's appears to be a done deal.

Still, Warner would make no such public assumptions. He did say on Tuesday he wants to finish his career with the Cardinals.

"That's my mindset," he said. "If I'm going to keep playing, I don't want to change teams."

I'd have thought that maybe God would've wanted to wait and see if a team like the Chicago Bears, for example, wanted to offer Warner a huge contract. But God's an honest fellow and puts speaking his mind above things like contract negotiation leverage. Good for Him.

I'm a Matt Leinart fan, but still, selfishly, I'd like to see Warner's faith lead him back to the Cardinals. That team is too good and too exciting to have just a one-year run, and I'm afraid of the drop-off they'd suffer under Leinart.

It's not that I think Leinart is terrible, but he's inexperienced, and so much of the Cardinals survival came from Warner's ability to beat the blitz with quick decision-making. He's one of the best in the league at that, and the Cardinals need it.

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