Sources: Raiders reach agreement in principle with top pick Russell

Updated: September 11, 2007, 2:53 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Ending months of negotiations and a holdout that stretched to more than six weeks, the Oakland Raiders reached a contract agreement in principle on Monday night with JaMarcus Russell, the former LSU quarterback who was the first overall selection in the 2007 draft.

ESPN.com has confirmed that -- barring any glitches and contingent on formalities like passing a physical exam -- Russell officially will sign a six-year contract Tuesday and should be on the field for the team's Wednesday practice.

Russell arrived in the Bay Area on Tuesday and is expected to take a physical for the team. The quarterback was not going to fly to Oakland until his representatives felt comfortable with all the details of the contract.

Sources said the contract, hammered out in four days of marathon face-to-face negotiations in the Bay Area, has a maximum value of $68 million.

The deal also includes about $31 million-$32 million in guarantees and an attractive payout schedule that will enable Russell to earn substantially more in the first three seasons of the deal than the $20.95 million that Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams, the top overall selection in the 2006 draft, will bank in his first three years.

There are also guarantees in the fourth season of Russell's deal, and he will make more in that period than the $23.35 million that Williams will pocket in his first four years.

So, while it appears that the Raiders were able to hold the guarantees in the range that they had been proposing in recent discussions, the long holdout seems to have garnered Russell a very advantageous payout structure.

From ESPN Radio

John Clayton reacts to JaMarcus Russell finally agreeing on a contract with the Raiders, but he thinks the season is basically lost for Russell. Clayton Insider

Of course, it also cost him any opportunity to win the starting job in training camp.

The Raiders' staff chose Josh McCown as the starter after a preseason competition with Daunte Culpepper, who was signed as a free agent during camp.

Russell, 22, staged one of the longest holdouts by a rookie in recent history. In 2002, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, the first-round choice of the Minnesota Vikings that year, missed the first eight games of the regular season. In terms of top overall picks, no one has held out longer than Russell since tailback Bo Jackson declined to sign with Tampa Bay altogether in 1986.

During his three seasons as the LSU starter, Russell completed 493 of 797 passes for 6,625 yards, with 52 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions.

After weeks of inertia, the parties met for much of the day Friday at an undisclosed Bay Area site and drew close to an accord. The talks moved in reverse for a while when they resumed Saturday.

Because the Raiders opened the season Sunday against the Detroit Lions, there was not much bargaining.

The weekend negotiations represented the first face-to-face bargaining since the parties met in Los Angeles on Aug. 20 and there was a ramped-up sense of urgency.

The two sides then got back to work Monday and spent much of the day fine-tuning the proposal and committing it to contract language.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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