PHOENIX — The Cardinals released Matt Leinart, parting ways with the former Heisman Trophy winner who was supposed to be the team's franchise quarterback but couldn't escape the backup role.
"In fairness to Matt, I think that it would be a tough position for him to be in a backup role," coach Ken Whisenhunt said Saturday. "Maybe a fresh start for him is what would be a good thing, for all of us."
The Cardinals tried to trade Leinart but found no acceptable deal. By cutting Leinart, Arizona doesn't have to pay him the $2.5 million he was due for the coming season, not to mention the $7.4 million, plus a $5.5 million roster bonus, he was scheduled to make next season.
Arizona thought it had a steal when Leinart, who led USC to two national titles and a third title game appearance, fell to the Cardinals at the No. 10 overall pick in 2006. Then-coach Dennis Green called it "a gift from heaven."
He started 11 games as a rookie under Green then the first five the following season under Whisenhunt. But the big left-hander had a broken collarbone, and Kurt Warner took over.
Warner finished his career with two spectacular seasons, leading Arizona to consecutive NFC West titles and a Super Bowl appearance.
Leinart mostly watched. This year, he expected to get his chance after Warner retired, but Leinart was replaced by Browns castoff Derek Anderson in the third preseason game.
"Do I feel like we didn't put him in a position to be successful?" Whisenhunt said. "I think that is open to debate. It has obviously been talked about a lot. I think that with every player on our team, we are trying to give him the opportunity to succeed. I think we have always tried to be fair."
Leinart went public with his frustration Monday, complaining he had outplayed Anderson and that his problems with Whisenhunt were "probably away from football." That led to a meeting with Whisenhunt the next day.
The decision elevates Max Hall, an undrafted rookie out of BYU, to backup quarterback, and another rookie, fifth-round draft pick John Skelton, is No. 3.
Rams choose Bradford to start at quarterback
ST. LOUIS — No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford will start at quarterback in the opener against the Cardinals on Sept. 12.
Coach Steve Spagnuolo made the decision Saturday, saying Bradford had earned the job.
"We're confident. The staff's confident. The team's confident," Spagnuolo said. "It's well deserved."
A.J. Feeley, whose injury gave Bradford the chance to take plenty of snaps in the preseason, and Thad Lewis are the backups.
Bradford won the 2008 Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma. He signed a six-year, $78 million contract with $50 million guaranteed — the most ever in the NFL — then went out and played well in the preseason.
"I feel like (Spagnuolo) has given me a great opportunity to start next week against Arizona," Bradford said. "I realize there is a lot of responsibility that comes with that opportunity."
During the preseason, Bradford went 33-of-55 for 338 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Defensive lineman George Selvie and cornerback Jerome Murphy, former USF standouts, made the roster.
Trades: The Bengals got safety Reggie Nelson, a former first-round pick out of Florida, from the Jaguars for cornerback David Jones and a conditional draft pick. … The Chiefs traded safety Jarrad Page to the Patriots for a conditional draft pick, ESPN.com reported. … The Colts acquired third-year defensive back Justin Tryon from the Redskins for an undisclosed draft pick. … The Broncos acquired tight end Dan Gronkowski from the Lions for cornerback Alphonso Smith. … The Ravens sent outside linebacker Antwan Barnes to the Eagles for a 2011 draft choice. … The Eagles shipped guard Stacy Andrews to the Seahawks for an undisclosed 2011 draft pick.
Ward lands with Texans: Running back Derrick Ward, cut last week by the Bucs, worked out for the team Friday then signed a deal.
Bears: Defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert and receiver Juaquin Iglesias, the team's top two picks last year, were cut.
Bengals: Adam "Pacman" Jones made the roster as a third cornerback and punt returner. Mike Nugent, a former Buc, won the kicking job, and receiver Matt Jones, trying to revive his career, was released.
Bills: Undrafted rookie receiver David Nelson, a former Florida standout, made the roster after finishing the preseason with eight catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
Broncos: League sack leader Elvis Dumervil (chest muscle) and receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) went on season-ending injured reserve, and defensive end Jarvis Green, owed $3.255 million, didn't make the roster.
Browns: Receiver Carlton Mitchell, a former USF standout, made the team.
Chargers: Linebacker Kion Wilson, a former USF standout, was let go.
Colts: Former Florida standout Brandon James, an undrafted free agent running back, was released.
Cowboys: Veteran Sam Hurd kept his job, despite making $1.8 million and likely being the fifth receiver.
Dolphins: Quarterback Pat White, a second-round pick last year, was released. White struggled with his accuracy in limited duty last season.
Eagles: Tight end Cornelius Ingram, a former Florida player, was cut.
Giants: Quarterback Sage Rosenfels and running back Darius Reynaud passed their physicals after being acquired from the Vikings for future considerations.
Jets: Receiver David Clowney, on the bubble all summer, and running backs Danny Woodhead and Chauncey Washington made the roster. The team now has seven running backs, including veteran LaDainian Tomlinson.
Panthers: Rookie Tony Pike, a sixth-round pick, will be the No. 3 quarterback behind starter Matt Moore and rookie Jimmy Clausen. Defensive tackle Tank Tyler, acquired last year from the Chiefs, was expected to be a starter but was released after a poor training camp.
Patriots: Outside linebacker Derrick Burgess and special teams captain Sam Aiken were released.
Ravens: Safety Ed Reed (hip), a six-time Pro Bowl player, will miss the first six weeks of the season after being put on the reserve physically unable to perform list. … Quarterback Troy Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, and kicker Shayne Graham were released.
Redskins: Willie Parker was the odd man out in a three-way veteran running back competition. The former Steelers star was cut, and the team kept Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson.
Saints: All-Pro safety Darren Sharper (knee) will miss at least the first six games after going on the physically unable to perform list, and projected starting linebacker Jonathan Casillas (foot) will miss the season.
Seahawks: Veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, 33, was let go because the team couldn't make a trade. … Offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, 69, retired.
Steelers: With Ben Roethlisberger suspended, Byron Leftwich injured and Dennis Dixon not ready, quarterback Charlie Batch could likely start the opener against the Falcons on Sept. 12, Pittsburgh's Post-Gazette reported. … Justin Hartwig, the starting center the past two seasons, was cut after the team didn't work out a trade. He was beaten out by first-round pick Maurkice Pouncey, a former Florida standout.
Texans: Kicker Kris Brown, the last original member of the team, went on season-ending injured reserve.
Titans: Quarterback Chris Simms, a former Buc, and safety Myron Rolle, a former FSU standout and Rhodes scholar who took a year off from football to study at Oxford, were cut.
Vikings: Receiver Javon Walker and kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd were released, Minneapolis' Star Tribune reported.