The Arizona Cardinals have signed second-round draft choice Deuce Lutui, the former Southern California standout guard who is expected to vie for a starting job as a rookie, to a four-year contract.
Lutui is the fourth of the Cardinals' seven selections to complete a contract and the highest member of the draft class to come to terms. He is only the sixth first-day prospect leaguewide, and the fourth in the second round, to reach an agreement.
The four-year deal is worth $3.595 million and includes a $1.985 million signing bonus.
"It's something I discussed with my agent [Max Hanneman], that
I wanted to play right away and make my mark on the field," Lutui
told the Associated Press. "It's a big relief, just doing that paperwork. Now it's all
field work from here, just playing ball and focusing on what we've
got to do for the Arizona Cardinals."
A powerfully-built blocker (6-feet-4, 334 pounds), Lutui is deceptively athletic and possesses quick feet. Ironically, some scouts felt in assessing him that he might not have used his natural strength enough at the college level.
He started at right tackle for the Trojans in 2004, then moved to left guard, his more natural position, for the 2005 campaign. The consensus in the league is that Lutui, who had 172 "knockdown" blocks at USC, according to the coaching staff's tally, projects best to guard in the NFL and that he has the potential to be a Pro Bowl player.
One of the most glaring deficiencies of the Cardinals has been the performance of the team's offensive line over the last several seasons, and Lutui will have an excellent chance to break into the lineup quickly. A few teams felt he rated a first-round grade in the draft, but guards typically slip a bit, and Lutui was the 41st player chosen overall.
"Am I ready? I'm ready for football," Lutui said. "It's a
great time for Arizona Cardinal football. We're trying to turn
things around. We've got the new stadium."
A native of Tonga, being drafted by the Cardinals nonetheless represents a homecoming of sorts, since Lutui played at Mesa (Ariz.) High School. He originally committed to the University of Utah, but did not qualify academically, and attended Mesa Community College in 2002 and Snow (Utah) Junior College in 2003 before transferring to Southern California.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from the Associated Press was also used in this report.