Well, almost all of the draft picks have signed and are in camp preparing to start their professional football careers. The hardest position to play is quarterback and now one of the two first-round selections is still at home waiting for the "right deal."
What is the right deal? It really isn't the most money the players and his agent can suck out of the club but rather the deal that pays them fairly now with an opportunity to pay them more down the road if they play up to an exceptional level.
It's bad enough that the NFL pays so much money to unproven rookies in the first place, but to reward these young men for just starting games is ludicroius. It's time to stop paying them more than the slot they were drafted in just because they are quarterbacks. I could see researching the top 10 performances by rookie quarterbacks in NFL history and rewarding these players if they reach the average of those 10. As one GM said: "What the heck is the $31 million guaranteed for anyway?"
What these young men don't really comprehend is the expectations, pressure and bumpy road ahead when they take the field. They think they know but they really don't know what's going to happen to them as soon as they are signed -- and even worse, what's going to happen when they start a game. Heck, Eli Manning took his team to the playoffs in the first two seasons he started and he still struggles with acceptance in New York. Does anyone think the Raiders and Browns are headed to the playoffs anytime soon?
I'm sure JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn feel ready to play but they aren't ready. And missing all of this practice time waiting for more money puts them behind in many ways. As one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL said to me recently, "I stayed in school four years, sat my whole rookie season to learn and still wasn't ready when I took the field." Quinn has a fan base in Cleveland that was excited to see him in a Browns uniform were close to turning on him before he finally signed.
Quinn is talented but when he throws interceptions, gets sacked because he didn't see the blitz, or opens up the wrong way on a handoff, he's going to want some slack from the fans and he may not like their response after his holdout.
As for Russell, it sounds like a more complicated story. Rumors have it that this unproven raw athlete thinks the $23 million that third overall pick Joe Thomas received and the $27 million that second overall pick Calvin Johnson received don't relate to him. Somehow this kid woke up one day and believed he was worth closer to $40 million guaranteed. Trust me, there's no way he's worth it -- and there's certainly no way he's ever going to get it from the Raiders.
I'm visiting with teams across the league right now and the most consistent information I get from GMs is that the Raiders are willing to guarantee $31 million of a $66 million, 6-year deal. Personally, I think that's too much money for a guy who will not be ready to win games until 2008, but the that's a story for a different time.
Then I heard, as usual in these stubborn negotiations, that the player might be considering a new agent. That would be a mistake because the present agent is already entitled to his commission based on the largest package he has negotiated so far. The Raiders have probably reached the ceiling and a new agent is not going to generate another dime.
A new twist is the fact there's a chance the Raiders could consider reducing the offer each week that Russell stays out of camp. Here's a formula one GM thought he would use if he were in the Raiders' shoes. A six-year deal that starts going down on a schedule:
$66 million, $31 million guaranteed if you sign in the next seven days.
$65 million, $30 million guaranteed if you sign in a week.
$64 million, $29 million guaranteed if you sign in two weeks.
$63 million, $28 million guaranteed if you sign in three weeks.
$62 million, $27 million guaranteed if you sign in four weeks.
You get the picture. A week of practice in pads with your team is worth $1 million. See how long he stays at home when he figues out it will cost him an average of $142,859 a day. The NFL really can't fine Russell because he's not under contract but they could start taking money off the table and my guess is they are contemplating it right now. I have been in this situation and I suggest they don't call him anymore, don't send him any messages through his agent that you care. Just wait him out and stop the nonsense because that's really what it is.
Russell is a talented young quarterback who needs a lot of work on the field and in the classroom and sitting down in Mobile, Ala., isn't going to help him succeed in this league. I hope he's heard of Akili Smith, Cade McNown, Tim Couch and countless others who never really got their careers off the ground. I hope someone informed him that there is no other pro football league in the world that pays like the NFL, and if he thinks he can sit out the year and enter next year's draft and still be the top pick in 2008, he is mistaken.
I handed in the draft card for the Tampa Bay Bucs years ago for the first pick in the draft and the name was Bo Jackson. He never signed with Tampa and he sat out a year while playing baseball. The next year he was drafted late on the second day by the Oakland Raiders. Jamarcus is on a slippery slope right now, especially if the rumors floating around NFL camps are that he wants in excess of $31 million in guaranteed cash.