JaMarcus Russell finally reached an agreement with the Oakland Raiders, a six-year deal for over $60 million and around $31 million in guaranteed money. While failing to sign on time has severely stunted his potential growth in 2007, there are many other things wrong with Russell’s presence on the Raiders.
This whole process has been a major distraction to the team. While no one expected the Raiders to come out of the gate with a 2-0 record or even win more than 4-5 games at most this season, question marks about the #1 overall draft pick – especially a quarterback – fill the locker room with questions on a daily basis. When you have the #1 draft pick you can essentially “sign” the player before you draft them. Maybe the Raiders where trying to give the impression they were considering Calvin Johnson to incite a trade on draft day? The best thing to do, if you are going to draft a player with the #1 pick, is to make the process as simple as possible – no holdouts or extended contract negotiations. What you want from your #1 guy is to show up, get into camp and start earning his bloated pay check that is based that devil term “potential” more than things he’s actually accomplished on the field on Sundays.
The Raiders needed to trade away the #1 draft pick. I’m sure no one was offering “true value” for the spot on the draft board, but the Raiders were in a tough place. Taking JaMarcus Russell didn’t make sense because they have so many holes on offense a young signal-caller, especially one with question marks like Russell, isn’t the right move. Taking Calvin Johnson doesn’t make sense because a young receiver can’t impact the game when the overall offense is in disarray. Other players like Joe Thomas or the other linemen would be a reach at the #1 spot.
There’s no arguing the Raiders needed to draft a quarterback for the franchise. 2007 was not the draft for it. Russell and Quinn, the top two options, have question marks. Can Russell transition to the NFL? Does he have enough experience? Can he read a defense? The Raiders needed to trade down. Ideally, they could get a deal like Dallas got from Cleveland – a lower 1st round pick this year and a 1st rounder in 2008. That could be a top-10 pick. Down in the 20s they could of had a player like Brandon Merriweather, Joe Staley or Ben Grubbs. A young O-linemen or two in 2007 would be invaluable to solidifying the line BEFORE you get a young QB in 2008. With Russell holding out, he may only play half a year by the time he’s “ready” in 2007.
The 2008 draft is going to be very deep with quarterbacks. With a trade like the one above. The Raiders would have had 2 picks in the first half of the 1st round. According to ESPN.com’s draft coverage, there are potentially 4 or 5 QBs with a “1st round grade” going into the 2007 college season. Brian Brohm is likely to be a top-5 draft pick (maybe #1 overall), but the others will mostly likely be available later on in round 1. Chad Henne, Andre Woodson, Jr, John David Booty, Colt Brennan and Matt Ryan are the other options. The 2008 draft is also deep with OL talent. With a Joe Staley in 2007 and a player like Sam Baker or Barry Richardson in 2008, the young QB would have a developing offensive line to rely on when starting their NFL career.
JaMarcus Russell already had a lot of pressure on him being the #1 pick in the 2007 NFL draft, but holding out makes it that much worse. In 2008 and beyond, Russell and the Raiders will be questioned heavily if Russell struggles or a few of the 2008 QBs coming out perform well in their first couple years. It’s been said that drafting a top-5 QB that turns into a bust costs your franchise 5-10 years to recover. The Raiders have already struggled enough since Rich Gannon, Tim Brown and Jerry Rice led the team to the Super Bowl. JaMarcus Russell could be yet another regrettable decision for a currently floundering franchise.