Cardinals release QB Matt Leinart

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The Arizona Cardinals have 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.

The team made the announcement on Saturday, shortly before the Cardinals had to reach their 53-man roster limit.

Arizona thought it had a steal when Leinart fell to the Cardinals at the No. 10 overall pick in 2006. He started 10 games as a rookie under then-coach Dennis Green then the first five the following season under new coach Ken Whisenhunt. But the big left-hander then went down with a broken collar bone five games into the 2007 season and Kurt Warner took over.

Leinart started one game after that, at Tennessee last season when Warner was injured. This year, he expected to finally get his chance after Warner retired, but was replaced by Cleveland castoff Derek Anderson in the third preseason game. He went public with his frustration on Monday, complaining he had outplayed Anderson and that his problems with Whisenhunt were “probably away from football.’

Leinart threw for 3,893 yards with 14 touchdowns and 20 interceptions with Arizona.

Leinart spent the past two seasons as an understudy to Warner, who led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl in 2008 and another division title last season before retiring.

Unless the Cardinals acquire another quarterback, the team would be left with rookie Max Hall as Anderson’s backup. They also have rookie QB John Skelton.

Anderson spent five up-and-down seasons with the Browns, where he lost his starting job to Brady Quinn at the start of last season. He got the job back, lost it, then got it back again when Quinn got hurt.

When the former Oregon State quarterback joined the Cardinals, he said he wanted a fresh start and was excited about a new opportunity with a new team.

Anderson had been claimed off waivers by Cleveland from Baltimore in 2005. He made the Pro Bowl in 2007 when he threw for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns, leading the Browns to a 10-6 record.

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