Russell signs record rookie deal in time for practice
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Quarterback JaMarcus Russell finally signed his record rookie contract with the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday and joined his new team for practice, ending the longest holdout in more than two decades by the league's top pick.
"It's been a long time and I am happy that everything is finally over and I get a chance to be a football player again," Russell said in a statement released by the team. "I can't wait to get out there to see everybody."
Russell was expected to hold a news conference after practice Wednesday afternoon.
Russell will be guaranteed a record $29 million in his six-year $61 million deal, according to two people familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity because the terms were not released. He would get an additional $3 million if he reaches minimal playing time incentives.
Russell would earn the $3 million bonus in 2010 if he takes 35 percent of the team's snaps this year, 45 percent in 2008 or 50 percent in 2009. If Russell hit all the incentives in the deal, it would be worth $68 million.
The previous record deal for a rookie was when the Detroit Lions gave No. 2 pick Calvin Johnson $27.2 million in guarantees this year. Top pick Mario Williams got $26.5 million in guaranteed money a year ago from Houston.
The marathon talks the past few days have brought an end to the longest holdout for a top pick since 1986. Bo Jackson chose to play baseball instead of signing with Tampa Bay that year. He went back into the draft in 1987 and was taken in the seventh round by the Raiders, starting a two-sport career.
It's unlikely Russell will be able to contribute much this season after missing the entire preseason and the season opener against Detroit. He had not practiced with the team since a voluntary minicamp three months ago.
Josh McCown started in the Raiders' 36-21 loss to the Lions and was backed up by Daunte Culpepper and Andrew Walter. The Raiders will get a two-week roster exemption after Russell signs, but it's unlikely they would keep four quarterbacks after that.
Russell went 25-4 as LSU's starting quarterback, finishing his career with the Tigers by throwing the second most touchdown passes (52) and having the second highest completion percentage (61.9 percent) in school history.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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