Warner has chance to start in NY

Updated: June 3, 2004, 1:30 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

With a long day of courtship behind them, the New York Giants and quarterback Kurt Warner are expected to complete a contract agreement on Thursday, several league sources told ESPN.com late Wednesday night.

Barring any snags, the two-time NFL MVP -- whose release from the St. Louis Rams became official Wednesday afternoon -- will sign a two-year contract.

Under terms of the proposed deal, Warner will earn $3 million for the 2004 season. That includes a signing bonus of $1.5 million and a base salary for the same amount. Warner would have the ability to void the second year of the contract and become an unrestricted free agent next spring by reaching relatively easy performance benchmarks.

One source said that if Warner is "just drawing breath" next spring, the contract will be voided and he will be able to test the open market. Financial details of the second year of the contract were not known.

Agent Mark Bartelstein confirmed earlier Wednesday that negotiations had begun and that he hoped to bargain an expeditious deal for his client. Giants officials also wanted a quick resolution, because they would like to have Warner on the field for the team's next minicamp, which begins Monday morning.

Warner, 32, is expected to win the starting job, vacated by Kerry Collins, and to serve as a "bridge" quarterback while the Giants groom first-round choice Eli Manning to assume the No. 1 spot, most likely in 2005. The Giants, who visited with Warner last month and put him through a thorough physical examination, are believed to be the only franchise that offered him the opportunity to be the starter.

The departure of Warner frees up approximately $4.85 million in 2004 cap room for the Rams. The club will still have to carry $4.61 million in so-called "dead money" -- cap room devoted to a player no longer on the roster -- against its spending limit for 2004. St. Louis will also have to absorb a cap hit of $6.723 million in 2005. Warner was under contract to the Rams through the 2006 campaign.

Warner authored an incredible rags-to-riches tale. The onetime journeyman emerged from stints in the Arena Football League and the NFL Europe League to lead St. Louis to a Super Bowl XXXIV victory in 1999. He captured league MVP honors that season and also in 2001.

But injuries caught up to Warner the past two seasons; his playing time was reduced and his productivity waned. He started only one game in 2003, ironically against the Giants, and made two appearances. He has not won a game as a starter since the 2001 season.

His career includes 1,121 completions in 1,688 attempts, for 14,447 yards, with 102 touchdown passes and 65 interceptions.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.