In a situation fraught with potential irony, the team that exposed Kurt Warner last season as a quarterback in decline could be the team that helps resurrect his career.
During an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio on Thursday, Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi confirmed that the Giants are interested in Warner and that the team has received permission from the Rams to contact him.
Warner may now head a list of candidates that grew all the shorter when Neil O'Donnell opted to remain retired rather than come aboard as the human safety net for Manning.
"We've been talking," Mark Bartelstein, Warner's agent, told The Associated Press.
If the Giants do sign Warner, he would return to the scene of a game that not only marked his most recent regular-season start, but one that sent his career spiraling. In last season's opener at Giants Stadium, Warner was sacked six times and played miserably in an ugly 23-13 St. Louis loss. Afterward, Marc Bulger was promoted to the No. 1 job by coach Mike Martz, and Warner appeared in only one game the rest of the season.
The Rams last month gave Warner, 32, and Bartelstein permission to talk to other teams about a job in 2004, the inference being that the veteran will be released after June 1, when the impact against St. Louis' salary cap can be somewhat ameliorated. The likelihood of Warner's release increased Tuesday when the Rams signed Bulger to a three-year contract extension worth $17.25 million.
Warner's best scenario might be to sign a one-year contract with another team, and go into the free agent market at the outset of the signing period next spring when there might be the potential to gain a starting job. At present, there are no openings for a starter, as former Giants starter Kerry Collins is discovering.
"That's the reality right now," Bartelstein said. "So you've got to look around and find the best situation."
That could be in New York. Accorsi and Giants coach Tom Coughlin figure to immediately give Manning the starter's job, but still want a veteran presence to help guide the first overall choice in the 2004 draft and perhaps get a few starts if the former Ole Miss star falters. Certainly it would represent an attractive opportunity for Warner to begin rehabilitating his career.
New York probably won't pay much for a veteran backup, with $1 million the likely high end for a one-year contract, but it beats being unemployed.
Accorsi termed the journeyman O'Donnell "ideal" for the job, in part because he possesses the kind of mentality it takes to help foster a younger player. But Warner has demonstrated a team-first type of mindset, dealt well with Bulger and supported him even as he was snatching away his job. Warner even recommended to Martz during a slump last season that he stick with the younger player.
Now that O'Donnell has rejected their overtures, the Giants appear in no hurry to fill the spot behind Manning; Accorsi has hinted he will remain patient and see what other veteran QBs become available. The Giants signed free agent Kevin Thompson, who has played sparingly in three seasons, to help get them through the three-day minicamp that begins Friday morning.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.