ST. LOUIS - Marc Bulger on Tuesday agreed to a four-year contract with the St. Louis Rams — a deal that could affect whether two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner will be released next month.
The Rams did not disclose terms of the deal with Bulger, who coach Mike Martz has said would enter the preseason as the team’s starting quarterback. But ESPN reported the deal includes a $9 million signing bonus.
In a statement announcing Bulger’s new contract, the Rams made no mention of Warner’s status.
Last week, Martz said “at this point, our focus (is) to get something done with Marc and we’ll take the next step from there.”
In Tuesday’s statement Martz said: “This is good for Marc, but is also good for the organization.”
Messages left with Martz and a Rams spokesman were not immediately returned.
Bulger, 27, has been a big success in 1½ seasons as a starter with the Rams. He won his first six starts in 2002 and led the team to a 12-4 record and an NFC West championship last year, then was the MVP in the Pro Bowl after throwing a record four touchdowns.
In 15 starts last season, Bulger threw for an NFC-best 3,845 yards on 336-of-532 passing, with 22 touchdowns and 22 interceptions for an 81.4 passer rating. Bulger, taken in the sixth round out of West Virginia, also gained 75 yards on 29 carries in 2003, with his four touchdown runs the most the most by a Rams’ quarterback since Pat Haden had four in 1976.
While suggesting there’s still a chance Warner could stay with the team next season, Martz said last month that discussions on a long-term deal with Bulger could impact what happened, with reaching a deal increasing the likelihood of Warner leaving the team.
Warner’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said Tuesday night that his client expected to be released after June 1 — and that he doubted Warner would be willing to back up Bulger or take a salary cut to stay with the Rams.
“We knew this was coming. This is not a surprise,” Bartelstein said of Bulger’s new contract. “Kurt wants to play, and I think there’s going to be a lot of interesting situations out there for him (with other teams). Sometimes change is good, and that time may be here for Kurt.”
Bartelstein said that since the Rams gave Warner permission to shop his skills elsewhere in the NFL, “we’ve talked to a number of teams, and there’s certainly a lot of interest.” Bartelstein declined to elaborate.
“We’re just moving forward,” he said. “Nothing is written in stone, and crazy things can happen every day. But that’s the path we’re headed down right now.”
Warner was the NFL MVP in 1999 and 2001, leading the team to the Super Bowl each year. But he had just three touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in an injury-plagued 2002 and lost his job after fumbling six times while sustaining a concussion in the opener last year.
The Rams quarterback corps already includes 38-year-old veteran Chris Chandler as a backup. In the NFL draft last month, the Rams chose Jeff Smoker of Michigan State in the sixth round.
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