The Raiders have finally put an end to the misery and parted ways with the top pick in the 2007 draft, JaMarcus Russell. I detailed the enormous cost to the Raiders when he was demoted last season. As you can see, the contract is jaw dropping when juxtaposed against the production from Russell - a record of 7-18, a total of 18 touchdown passes and a miserable passer rating of 65.2 -- in three years.
So much for so little
Russell leaves with $36 million and another parting gift of $3 million, the amount still guaranteed on his contract, an amount that has no offset. In other words, Russell can keep the $3 million from the Raiders on top of whatever he may make from another team.
Russell will now become the leader in the clubhouse for the player in the NFL who has done the least for the most money. And he will maintain his position as Exhibit A for management to the union as to what is wrong with the rookie compensation system (something the union agrees with).
To add to his resume, Russell also becomes the heavyweight champion for the biggest bust in the NFL. The reason: like everything else, follow the money. While the money given to players such as Ryan Leaf, Tony Mandarich, Tim Couch and others was substantial, it does rival the $39 million prize for Russell. The financial implications, along with the (lack of) production, qualify him for that label.
The question that is now being asked whether Russell will join another team, what team, and when. Most feel that no team should waste their time. I say that someone will and the question to ask is not who or when but for how much?
We know that Russell is a talent and that if the Raiders did not select him first in the 2007 Draft he would have been scooped up soon thereafter. The issue with Russell has been work ethic, discipline and willingness to get better. And a big part of that problem, in my opinion, has been the fact he already had "screw you" money that insured his status on the team no matter what level of performance.
Now he would come in to a new team in a completely different situation. To me, it comes down to risk. If the risk were minimal - a contract that the team could get out of at any time with little to no consequences - and the coaching and scouting staffs were on board, I would do it.
A few years ago with the Packers, I negotiated a contract for Tim Couch as a potential backup to Brett Favre. Couch, another former top pick in the Draft that had made over $20 million with the Browns, was a low-risk investment and good guy excited to join the team. Tim had made his money, now he had to make a team (he did not, released him in training camp).
Someone will eventually take a chance on Russell and add to his $39 million in career earnings. The team concern is making sure the contract is minimal risk for a player that may only be on the roster for months or even weeks and make it at his risk, not theirs. He's had too much of the other way around.