PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Kurt Warner’s Brilliant Contract Offer

with 4 comments

Kurt Warner

Kurt Warner

Update: Kurt Warner has reached a deal with the Arizona Cardinals. Looks like his PR move paid off quickly.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner is near the top of the list of available quarterbacks on the free agent market in the NFL. He’s fresh off leading the downtrodden Cardinals to the Super Bowl, and is prime to land a big deal with a team that needs that one missing veteran presence behind center.

At 39 years-old he’s only looking for a 2-year deal before he walks off into the sunset, so he wants the Cardinals to remain competitive. He’s been adamant that they keep his receiving core together, especially demanding the team hold onto disgruntled receiver Anquan Boldin.

Tuesday afternoon Warner flipped the script on negotiations with the Cardinals, and free agency in general, when he made his own contract offer. In a brilliant PR move, Warner regained leverage he may have lost when being public about his desire to remain in Arizona, and put tremendous pressure on the team in the process.

First, Warner snagged a big offer from a team in desperate need of a quarterback. Warner wowed the 49ers and left San Francisco with a contract offer reportedly worth much more than what the Cardinals have discussed with his agent. Seems pretty par for the course in today’s free agency, right?

He wasn’t done there. Tuesday, Warner laid the hammer down on the Cardinals. In an unprecedented move he instructed his agent, Mark Bartelstein, to offer the Cardinals a hometown discount. According to azcentral.com Warner offered to return for 2 years at $12 million per year.

Bartelstein said, “It’s a home run. It’s much less than what we can get on the market. We’re hoping we’re going to get a ‘yes.” But, what really puts the pressure on the Cardinals is that Warner offered to return $1 million per year if the team keeps Boldin.

Let’s take a look at what Warner has done here. He’s offered to take less money than what he can get on the market, and has an offer in hand to prove it. He’s demanded the Cardinals keep a Super Bowl team intact, but he shouldn’t come off as selfish in the media or to fans, since he’s offered to return money for keeping Boldin.

The Cardinals are in a real bind. They have an historically frugal owner that doesn’t want to guarantee Warner that much money, but after years of losing they’ve just revitalized their fan base and promised a new commitment to winning. How can the Cardinals turn this down? What would they tell the media and fans? What would they tell sponsors and tax payers that recently helped them build a new stadium?

This has the potential for so many repercussions. I’m also interested to see if Commissioner Roger Goodell has a response, or even intervenes in the negotiations. It has to be troubling to owners around the league that a free agent is asking for a provision in his contract that requires the team to keep another player. If this becomes a trend Goodell and the owners will have to address this in the next CBA with the players.

I will definitely follow how this story plays out, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts?

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Written by Brian Gleason

March 4, 2009 at 3:58 am

4 Responses

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  1. I agree that this is a smart move by Warner but I suspect it is a situation that will not repeat itself very often. Warner is in a unique position in that he is seeking a short term deal to finish his career after leading his team to the SB, which has a historically bad track record. In this context, it works for Warner. I would expect that this will make future business for his agent difficult b/c every GM/negotiator will be weary of him “going public.” Moreover, due to the short playing careers, I would expect most players to follow the money and not emulate Warner’s negotiation style. That home town discount isn’t going to pay your kids college tuition in 20 years.

    Poppa Burgundy

    March 4, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    • You’re right, players and agents almost always chase the money, and we’d definitely need a few more cases of this before it becomes a trend. It will be interesting to follow the Donovan McNabb negotiations as well, since he’s reportedly told the Eagles he doesn’t want to discuss an extension until he sees how the team improves their talent.

      This type of negotiation probably only applies to players in the later years of their careers where winning means much more than money.

      Brian Gleason

      March 4, 2009 at 5:08 pm

  2. I think this is one of the best moves a quarterback could make that has proven himself to be in discussions for the hall of fame, prove to his team he is a winner, prove to a city- I want to play here, and an owner money is important but so is having the right pieces in place. Warner understands if he does not have a key receiver, the money means nothing as he will not be winning.

    The game agents play with teams is unbelievable and finally a player steps up and tells his agent-make this offer to the team- instead of the agent telling the team we want this much and if not, I will keep shopping my product.

    Jay Grant

    March 5, 2009 at 3:17 am

    • Hey Jay,

      Thanks for checking out the blog. I couldn’t agree more. I understand an agents job is to get the most money for his client, but I think far too often they forget that being comfortable, winning and just being successful can result in more money long-term. It was definitely refreshing to see a guy like Warner be so involved and so active in the negotiations.

      Being a Red Sox fan, it was like the exact opposite of Manny Ramirez.

      Brian Gleason

      March 5, 2009 at 4:03 am


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