- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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NEW YORK -- On Jan. 14, 2005, Matt Leinart announced he would return for his senior season at Southern California. The Trojans came up short in this year's national championship game, but Leinart found out on Saturday he lost even more -- at least $10 million.
Although the numbers have yet to be determined, Leinart figures to receive a signing bonus worth between $11.5 million and $13.8 million as the 10th overall pick of the Arizona Cardinals in this year's draft. Leinart's approximate signing bonus is based on the percentage (which varies) increases seen year-to-year by players who have been selected in the 10th spot.
Last year, Leinart's former teammate, Mike Williams, received a $13.5 million contract with his five-year deal, $10.5 million of which was guaranteed. The year before, Dunta Robinson received a signing bonus of $8 million with his six-year deal. And in 2003, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs received a $7.3 million contract with his five-year deal.
Before Leinart announced he would return for his senior season, analyst Mel Kiper, among others, tabbed him as the No. 1 pick for last year's draft. Alex Smith, who was chosen first by the San Francisco 49ers, received $24 million guaranteed.
However, projecting Leinart as the No. 1 overall pick had he come out in 2005 might be a bit presumptuous. After announcing he would return to USC, Leinart eventually had surgery for elbow tendinitis. Such a procedure who have hindered his draft workout schedule and potentially lowered his stock.
After Leinart made the announcement to stay another year, an ESPN.com SportsNation poll showed that 52.6 percent of the 94,911 fans who voted believed he had made the right decision. But 62.3 percent of those people also believed that Leinart would be the top pick in the 2006 NFL draft.
"He definitely lost about $7 million today if you believe he should have at least gone third this year or last year," said one agent, who has represented three first-rounders in recent drafts.
In contrast, Vince Young's performance in the national championship game against USC could have been worth nearly $10 million. Young, regarded as the No. 2 quarterback behind Leinart before the Rose Bowl, went third to the Tennessee Titans and his guaranteed contract is expected to be worth about $20 million, but will vary depending on the number of years in his contract.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.Rovell@espn3.com.
Matt Leinart, projected as a No. 1 pick had he left school in 2005, might have lost $10 million based on his draft selection.