Roderick Hood wants to start. The Cardinals will give him that chance, although they didn’t want to guarantee him anything. The two sides were able to reconcile those ideals Saturday, when the free agent cornerback agreed to a five-year contract with the Cards that is worth about $15 million.
The deal has incentives that could push its worth all the way to $23 million — if Hood becomes the star starter he thinks he can be.
The Cardinals already plan on Antrel Rolle starting at one cornerback spot. The other will be held by either Hood or incumbent Eric Green, whose play is expected to improve with new secondary coach Teryl Austin.
“(Hood) understood what the landscape was,” vice president of football operations Rod Graves said. “He knew he would have to compete. As competitive as he is, he wants to start, but when he had a chance to reflect on this versus other teams, he felt this was a place on the rise.”
Hood, who has spent the past four seasons in Philadelphia stuck behind Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown on the depth chart, is confident he can win the No. 2 cornerback battle, said his agent, George Mavrikes.
“I think the Cardinals got a diamond in the rough,” Mavrikes said.
Mavrikes added that while the Giants and Cleveland had interest in Hood, the decision came down to Arizona and New Orleans.
The contract offers from the two teams were similar — while the bonus total and salaries were not disclosed, Mavrikes said Hood will earn $9 million over the first three years on the deal — but being part of Arizona’s turnaround intrigued Hood.
The Cardinals had also called Hood a minute or two into the free agent period, a sign to both Mavrikes and Hood the team was serious about signing him.
The Cards gave Hood a signing bonus rather than a roster bonus, so the salary-cap hit that the team takes from the bonus will be prorated over the life of the contract and will save the Cardinals some of their dwindling cap space.
Hood, 25, played in just 10 games in 2006 because of injuries, starting five. He failed to record an interception. In 2005, Hood had a career-best three interceptions in 16 games, including six starts.
The one-time undrafted free agent out of Auburn is also excellent on special teams and can return kicks. Graves said he will be looked at in the same role with the Cards.
Hood is the third free agent the Cards have signed, after center Al Johnson and free safety Terrence Holt.
Negotiations remain ongoing with offensive lineman Mike Gandy, who could still end up in Arizona if he — like Hood — understands he will not have a starting job handed to him just by signing.
The Cards, who have already re-signed running back Marcel Shipp and special teamer Hanik Milligan, also are trying to re-sign linebacker
As for other free agent possibilities, “we will keep our eyes open for opportunities,” Graves said.
EXTRA POINT: Kurt Warner’s annual flag football tournament to raise money for his First Things First Foundation was held Saturday at the team’s complex, featuring 10 teams quarterbacked by football stars.
In addition to Warner, the quarterbacks included the Cardinals’ Matt Leinart, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, the Lions’ Josh McCown, the Chiefs’ Trent Green, the Rams’ Marc Bulger, former Pro Bowlers Warren Moon and Phil Simms, and Arizona State’s Rudy Carpenter.