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Agent: Cardinals should pay Warner like one of the league's top QBs

The agent for Kurt Warner said he expected the quarterback and the Cardinals to have a contract agreement by now and hopes the team isn't using his client's desire to stay in Arizona against him.

Agent Mark Bartelstein said Warner deserves a salary among the top "four or five" quarterbacks in the NFL, no matter where he plays. According to Bartelstein, those five earn an average of about $14.5 million per year.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday night, Bartelstein declined to say what the Cardinals were offering.

"It's unfortunate," Bartelstein said. "I thought it would get done quickly, but it hasn't. We'll keep working on it."

Barring an agreement, Warner will become a free agent Friday.

In an interview on Sporting News Radio, the 37-year-old quarterback said he was leaning toward either signing with Arizona or retiring.

At this point in his career, Warner said, "you don't want to go and start over, you don't want to have to rebuild. You want to be able to be a part of something you're comfortable with, where the pieces are in place to be successful."

Warner also doesn't want to move his wife and seven children.

His comments add to the leverage the Cardinals have in their negotiations, but Bartelstein said it would be unfair to pay the quarterback less than he deserves just because he wants to stay put.

"I really hope it doesn't get used against him that he's a Cardinal," the agent said.

Cardinals general manager Rod Graves didn't return a message left on his cell phone.

Bartelstein downplayed Warner's comments, saying: "Things change quickly. ... When the phone rings, you've got to listen."

Warner was a bargain last season, earning about $4 million, plus incentives, while at the controls of a prolific passing game that led the Cardinals on an improbable run to the Super Bowl. In four playoff games, Warner completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,147 yards and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions.

Warner wants a deal for two years, with a possible option for a third. Both he and his agent were keenly aware that in the current economic downturn, there is little public sympathy for an athlete arguing over a few million dollars.

"The last Kurt or I want is for anyone to feel sorry for him," Bartelstein said. "That's not his or my style."

But Warner said that pay is the way an organization can show its commitment to a player and his value to a team.

"My bottom line is I want to keep this team together and I want to have a chance to win a championship, and that's the most important thing," Warner said in the radio interview, "and I want to be compensated as well because I know these are probably going to be the last two years I'm going to play."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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