St. Louis Cardinals RHP Hutchinson signs with Cowboys

Saturday, January 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher and Stanford quarterback Chad Hutchinson has signed a seven-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys, the team announced Saturday.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Hutchinson received a $3.1 million signing bonus, and the contract is voidable by the team after three seasons, according to the Cowboys' Web site. The first three years are guaranteed at $5 million.

Hutchinson, who last played in a football game in 1997, said about 20 teams initially expressed interest, but that he eventually narrowed the list to Dallas, Chicago and the expansion Houston Texans.

``The Cowboys were at the top of my list all along,'' Hutchinson said. He selected the Cowboys after discussions with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson.

Jones characterized the signing as a low-risk move and stressed that the team isn't looking for Hutchinson to challenge incumbent starter Quincy Carter.

``It would be asking way too much for him to actually compete for a role this season,'' he said. ``Chad's value to us will be as a future project.

``This should in no way be construed as a statement about Quincy Carter. Quincy is at the head of the pack.''

Because Hutchinson, 24, is considered a rookie, his contract will count against the money alloted to the team to sign draft choices. Jones said the Cowboys will still have plenty of money to sign all seven picks.

Hutchinson, who had a 24.75 ERA in three appearances for the Cardinals last season, has a no-baseball clause in his contract.

He said football has never been far from his thoughts throughout his four-year stay in the Cardinals' organization.

``Baseball was something I really enjoyed, but I really wanted to explore my passion for football,'' he said. ``It's always been in the back of my mind.''

After last season, Hutchinson called his agent, Scott Boras, and said he'd be interested in taking a crack at the NFL.

Boras said he questioned whether Hutchinson, who had a 96 mph fastball, could still throw the football. After catching a few passes from Hutchinson, Boras said he was convinced.

``After I got up off the ground, I realized he had special skills,'' Boras said.

Hutchinson then had a workout attended by several teams, and the bidding was on.

``It was just sort of an unplanned free agency,'' Boras said.

Hutchinson gives the Cowboys five quarterbacks under contract, including Carter, Ryan Leaf, Anthony Wright and Clint Stoerner.

Jones said it hasn't yet been determined whether the team will go to camp with four or five quarterbacks. The team traditionally takes four.

``It will have a lot to do with what we see in the offseason, in terms of hard work and conditioning,'' he said.

Hutchinson started 23 games for Stanford in 1996 and 1997, completing 379 of 627 passes for 4,235 yards, 20 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.