AFC West: JaMarcus Russell

There will be no contract haggling between the Oakland Raiders and first-round draft pick Khalil Mack. The No. 5 overall draft pick has signed his deal, the team announced Thursday.

And that is a good thing for all involved. He is the highest-drafted rookie to sign thus far and, according to a league source, it is the standard four-year rookie deal.

The rookie salary structures are essentially slotted, leaving little room for holdouts, such as the one that helped derail the career of JaMarcus Russell.

For example: last year’s No. 5 pick, Ezekiel Ansah, signed a reported four-year, $18.595 million deal with an $11.9 million signing bonus with the Detroit Lions.

That’s some serious coin. Still, for Mack to put pen to paper the day before the first day of rookie minicamp? That speaks volumes to how serious he is about getting to work, as he said repeatedly last week, first on a conference call with reporters immediately after being drafted and then again the next day at the Raiders facility.

“I know the Oakland Raiders are nasty, man, they like to play nasty,” he said on Thursday. “I’m a football player that likes to, yeah, I’m a football player that likes to get in there and be a little nasty, but in a good way.”

Mack getting the business end of a contract done before his first-ever professional practice is nothing but a good way to handle things.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The conundrum, for lack of a better word, facing the Oakland Raiders as they considered their second-round pick, the fourth choice of the day, went something like this:

Take a player who, if all actually goes well, does not play a down next season, even if he is the presumptive franchise quarterback of the future.

Or ...

[+] EnlargeDerek Carr
AP Photo/Eugene TannerIf everything goes according to plan, Derek Carr will play little if at all for the Raiders this season.
Select a player who can presumably make an instant impact for the Raiders as they enter Year 1 of their reconstruction.

Oakland went with the former and it makes all the sense in the world, unless it doesn't.

Confused? Don't be, because while tabbing of Fresno State's Derek Carr was met with confusion in some corners at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway, he is part of a long-term plan by the Raiders. It's one that Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie witnessed firsthand in Green Bay.

Think Aaron Rodgers biding his time behind Brett Favre for three years with the Packers. Now, I'm not suggesting Matt Schaub is Favre, but you get the gist. The Raiders want Carr, who ran a high-octane spread offense his last two years almost exclusively out of the shotgun, to learn the intricacies of an NFL offense at the knee of Schaub.

And with the Raiders going all-in with Schaub as their starter for at least two years -- then again, they also seemed sold on Matt Flynn last year -- it gives Carr time to marinate in the NFL game.

“Right, we stayed true to our board,” Raiders director of player personnel Joey Clinkscales said. “We think Matt Schaub is our starter. We're confident with that and Derek will come in and he'll learn, and wherever he fits in he'll fit in. We're comfortable with the pick and knowing that he will come in and develop the way we would like to see him develop.

“He's a very mature kid. He's had a lot of life experiences that the regular 22-year-old hasn't had. He has a family, he's married, he has a child also. We're excited to get a guy like that in the program.”

The question, then, is this: Is Carr prepared to sit, or does he anticipate competing for the starting gig?

"That's for the coaches to decide," Carr said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters Friday afternoon. “The coaches know who they're getting, and I told them, I appreciate your calling, you know what you're getting. I'm going to come in and work, I'm going to come in and compete and I'm going to try and make the team better. I'm not a selfish guy, that's for sure, and I can't wait to get coached by those coaches.”

At Fresno State last season, Carr passed for 5,082 yards with 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions in completing 68.7 percent of his passes. And while his 74 completions of at least 20 yards led the FBS, 237 of his 659 passes were either at or behind the line of scrimmage, with an FBS-high 143 screen passes, per ESPN Stats & Info. “As a result, Carr's average pass attempt traveled 7 yards past the line of scrimmage, the fewest air yards per attempt of any top QB prospect,” per ESPN Stats & Info.

Plus, his completion percentage of 30.9 percent while under duress was the lowest of any top QB prospect, per ESPN Stats & Info. It all adds to the notion that Carr could stand to have a redshirt year, so to speak, in the NFL.

Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, Carr is the sixth quarterback taken in the first two rounds of the draft by the Raiders, following Jeb Blount (second round, 1976), Marc Wilson (first round, 1980), Todd Marinovich (first, 1991), Marques Tuiasosopo (second, 2001) and JaMarcus Russell (first, 2007).

Carr, meanwhile, said the Raiders have always been in his family's blood. His uncle Lon Boyett was a training camp tight end with Oakland in 1978.

And watching the trials and tribulations of his brother David, the No. 1 pick of the 2002 NFL draft by the Houston Texans, should only help him.

“Oh, my goodness, it's such a blessing,” the younger Carr said. “I learned everything that he did right and everything that he did wrong. He's told me. He told me that if he could do anything, he hopes he made the path smoother for me as I transition into the NFL.”

Watching from the sideline is probably the best path, at least early in his career.

A case for Corey Liuget

August, 21, 2013
In an Insider piece, Mike Sando thinks San Diego defensive end Corey Liuget is on the cusp of being one of the top 100 defensive players in the NFL .

I think Liuget, the team’s first-round pick in 2011, should already be on the list. He is a monster.

In other AFC West notes:

Oakland backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor has switched from No. 6 to No. 2. He wore No. 2 at Ohio State. Perhaps the Raiders thought enough time has passed since the last No. 2 played quarterback in Oakland. Yes, JaMarcus Russell. Pryor said when he was drafted that then-coach Hue Jackson wouldn’t let him wear No. 2. Punter Marquette King moved from No. 2 to No. 7.

Oakland rookie tackle Menelik Watson is practicing for the second time this camp. He had a calf injury. If he can stay healthy, he has a chance to play early.

U-T San Diego reports Chicago rookie linebacker Jon Bostic was fined $21,000 for a hit on San Diego receiver Mike Willie last week.

Scott Pioli, the man who drafted Jon Baldwin in the first round two years ago, stuck up for Baldwin. He was traded to San Francisco for fellow former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins.

San Diego tight end Antonio Gates doesn’t think the Broncos “will miss a beat” during the six-game suspension of star pass-rusher Von Miller.

New Orleans cut tackle Jason Smith. Oakland needs depth at the spot.

Video: JaMarcus Russell settles with Raiders

July, 3, 2013

Andrew Brandt discusses the reported settlement between the Raiders and JaMarcus Russell over his rookie contract.
It’s been no secret on this blog that it is going to be a pressure-filled season for high-profile running backs Darren McFadden of Oakland and Ryan Mathews of San Diego.

We’ve talked often that this season is vital for both players. Tuesday, on ESPN’s NFL32, host Wendi Nix, asked the show’s three analysts to name their one player in the NFL, regardless of position, who is entering a make-or-break season. Chris Mortensen selected Mathews and Damien Woody chose McFadden. The other analyst, Mark Schreleth, chose New York Giants’ cornerback Prince Amukamara.

I don’t think it is outlandish that the two AFC West players were selected. There is no doubt, they are entering crucial seasons.

McFadden is entering his contract year. He has missed, at least, three games in all five of his NFL seasons. If he can’t stay healthy or bounce back from a subpar 2012 season, the Raiders will surely move on.

The same thing goes for Mathews. The No. 12 overall draft pick of the 2010 draft has been hampered by injuries in his three NFL seasons. Like McFadden, Mathews has big ability, but if he can’t stay healthy, the Chargers will move away from him.

It’s interesting to note that the struggles of both of these players are being watched so closely on a league-wide level.

UDATE: The Oakland Raiders and former quarterback JaMarcus Russell have settled a long dispute over his contract. The Raiders owe him $3 million. It’s just another reminder of the disaster that was the Russell era in Oakland.
Moore-Streater USA TODAY SportsDenarius Moore (left) and Rod Streater could be the vanguard of a receiving rivalry in Oakland.
One of the bigger issues for the Oakland Raiders in their decadelong malaise has been the inability to develop a dynamic group of receivers.

Oakland, which has not had a winning record since the 2002 season when it went to the Super Bowl, bypassed future superstars Larry Fitzgerald (2004) and Calvin Johnson (2007) high in the draft in favor of busts Robert Gallery and JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders made a blockbuster trade for Randy Moss. He essentially took a two-year vacation when he was in Oakland before re-energizing his career after he was dealt to New England.

Particularly in the past five years, Oakland has drafted a slew of young receivers in hopes of striking it rich. Promising players such as Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy have all come and gone without making a major impact.

Although the receivers in Oakland’s current stable are young and, for the most part, unproven, there is hope for a franchise that is perpetually waiting for receivers to reach their potential. The Raiders enter the 2013 season hopeful the wait is nearing its end.

“It’s as green as grass,” Oakland coach Dennis Allen recently said of his group. “But there is all kinds of talent here.”

I asked Allen whether he could see himself waking up one morning in the near future and proclaiming that his group of receivers has finally arrived.

“Absolutely,” Allen said. “It’s coming. We just need the guys to step up.”

Oakland has done a nice job of drafting promising receivers late in the draft or adding them as undrafted free agents. All of the receivers projected to make the Raiders’ 53-man roster have potential to be impact players. But they also have to show they can be consistent threats.

The focal points of Oakland’s receiving group are third-year player Denarius Moore and second-year player Rod Streater. They are expected to be the starters. Moore was a fifth-round pick in 2011, and Streater was an undrafted free agent last year. Although both were training camp stars and have shown glimpses of their potential, neither has proved he is an impact player.

A lot of that has to do with their youth. Moore was a bit inconsistent last year, and he had some hands problems. Streater was incredibly fluid for an undrafted rookie, but, as to be expected, he didn’t always show up. Moore ended up with 51 catches for 741 yards and seven touchdown catches. Streater had 39 catches for 584 yards and three TDs. Oakland is hoping both players will make significant strides in 2013.

“I think we have a chance to be a good group,” Streater said. “There are a lot of good athletes in this group. We all are trying to get better together.”

ESPN analyst Matt Williamson likes the potential of Moore and Streater as a long-term starting tandem.

“I am really high on Moore, but he needs to stay healthy and be more consistent as a route runner,” Williamson said. “[Can he be] a true No. 1? That might be a bit of a stretch, since I rarely throw that term around, but he’s right on that cusp in terms of talent. Streater is a good complement to Moore, as he is bigger and more physical. He’s a possession guy to Moore’s explosiveness.”

Although the Raiders’ receiving success starts with Moore and Streater, the group has more to offer. Jacoby Ford has shown he can be a dynamic No. 3 receiver with explosive big-play ability. But he has had trouble staying healthy. He missed nearly the past season and a half with foot problems.

Juron Criner, a fifth-round pick last year, impressed on a daily basis last summer with one phenomenal catch after another. Yet he was pretty quiet in the regular season. Oakland added two more prospects this year with seventh-round pick Brice Butler and undrafted rookie Conner Vernon. Vernon is a prototype slot receiver who looked good in the offseason camps.

All of these players will have the time to develop together and show they belong on their own merits. New quarterback Matt Flynn thinks positive results are possible this season.

“We have some weapons on this offense that I think we can really take advantage of this season,” Flynn said.

AFC West notes

June, 10, 2013
Denver star left tackle Ryan Clady told a Denver radio station he will not be at minicamp this week. He did say he will likely attend training camp. That plan is consistent with what Clady has been saying. He has yet to sign his franchise tag.

The Broncos have expressed several times they want to give him a long-term deal. Clady is still recovering from a rotator cuff injury.

UPDATE: The NFL Network reported the Broncos have had their first contract talks of the year with Clady on Monday. I’d expect talks to continue through the summer.

The Los Angeles Times reported former San Diego linebacker Shawne Merirman was hospitalized Sunday night. Merirman tweeted Monday morning that he was dehydrated.

ESPN’s Ed Werder is reporting former Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell will get a workout with Baltimore. He worked out for the Bears on Friday. Russell has been out of the NFL since Oakland cut him in May 2010.
Friday, for the first time in nearly three years, JaMarcus Russell participated in NFL-related activities.

He worked out for the Chicago Bears. The Bears are not expected to sign Russell at this point, but it is a start for him. He worked out for the Redskins and the Dolphins in 2010 after being cut by the Oakland Raiders in May, 2010. The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007 is widely considered one of the biggest NFL draft busts of all-time.

As Russell was looked at by the Bears, another high-profile former AFC West quarterback, Tim Tebow, is wondering how long it will take for him to get back into an NFL building. Tebow has heard crickets since being cut by the New York Jets this spring.

There has been exactly zero interest around the league in him. The word is the former Denver quarterback could perhaps garner some interest if he is willing to switch positions, most likely to tight end. Thus far, Tebow has been reluctant to leave his quarterback days behind him.

With Russell getting another look, many league observers have wondered why he, but not Tebow, is getting another chance?

My take on the situation is neither former AFC West player is owed anything. Russell is beyond fortunate Chicago looked at him, and Tebow would be as well if another team gives him a look.

Nothing is owed to these players. They were both given chances. They were both first-round choices. The Raiders and the Broncos put in a ton of money and time into these two players. Both teams wanted these players to be stars. They didn’t work out, albeit for two completely different reasons.

Russell was immensely talented, but he didn’t show the heart and the head to succeed. Tebow had a hall of fame work ethic. But he couldn’t show he could be an NFL-style quarterback. That is kind of important in the NFL

So while Russell gets some NFL relevancy Friday, Tebow is still waiting for his call. If either truly gets another chance to be an NFL quarterback, it is up to them to make it work.
Dick Vermeil and Andy Reid share a bond.

Both men sat in the head-coaching chair in Philadelphia for years. Both led the Eagles to Super Bowl berths and have long been friends. Now they have another bond -- being head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. Vermeil held the position from 2001-05; Reid is just starting his Kansas City tenure. Reid consulted with Vermeil before accepting the Chiefs job just days after being fired in Philadelphia.

“He called me and asked me about Kansas City,” Vermeil told reporters Tuesday after watching the first day of the Chiefs’ mandatory minicamp. “I just said ‘Go. Just go.’”

Vermeil said he thinks Kansas City is the perfect fit for Reid.

“I admire the guy, I respect him, he’s a great football coach,” Vermeil said. “Andy’s having a lot of fun. He’s rejuvenated. You can tell. I’ve been with him through all different moods over the last few years. You’re very, very fortunate to have Andy Reid.”

In other AFC West notes:

The three other teams in the AFC West will have their mandatory minicamps next week.

Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles was back at practice Tuesday. He suffered a minor toe injury Friday.

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell, a draft bust with Oakland, will work out for Chicago on Friday, according to The 27-year-old Russell, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft, has been out of the league for three years. Baltimore also has some interest, USA Today reports.

The Lions signed former Denver receiver Matthew Willis. Earlier Tuesday, they signed former San Diego receiver Micheal Spurlock.

AFC West notes

May, 29, 2013
Is former Oakland bust JaMarcus Russell on his way back to the NFL? reports there is considerable interest in Russell, who is attempting a comeback after being cut by the Raiders three years ago.

My take: I’ll believe it when I see it.

Former Denver quarterback Cullen Finnerty was found dead at the age of 30 after a fishing accident in Michigan. He was briefly with the Broncos in 2008. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.

The Denver Post reports the Broncos may soon begin talks on a new deal for pending free agent punter Britton Colquitt. I’d be surprised if a deal doesn’t get done at some point this year. Denver covets the solid Colquitt.
Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Kansas City left tackle Branden Albert wants a contract in the range that former Miami left tackle Jake Long recently signed with St. Louis. Long signed with the Rams for $34 million over four years. Yahoo! reports the Dolphins will not continue to pursue a deal unless Albert lowers his demands.

While it could be a holdout, I think the situation is fluid and the demands are just part of the process. I could see Albert lowering his price to get a deal done before or during this week’s draft. A potential trade would very likely involve one of Miami’s two second-round picks, so the deal will be made by Friday night if it happens.

In other AFC West news:
  • According to Todd McShay and Mel Kiper , the first round of the draft doesn’t change much for the AFC West because of the Darrelle Revis trade from the Jets to the Buccaneers.
  • Washington is visiting with San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer. The Chargers have mild interest in bringing Jammer back.
  • Former Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain was arrested for the third time in the past year and a half in his Alabama hometown. McClain was recently cut by the Raiders and signed by Baltimore. He was the No. 8 overall draft pick in 2010.
  • Here is an ESPN video with former Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell. He is trying to come back after being cut by the Raiders three years ago.
  • It seems Denver pass-rusher Von Miller is looking forward to the Chiefs drafting his former Texas A&M teammate Luke Joeckel.
  • Denver safety Rahim Moore seems to have a good handle on things as he prepares bounce back from a colossal playoff gaffe.
NFL Network passed along an interesting nugget saying that the camp of Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco is aiming for him to be paid more than Peyton Manning.

Why do Flacco’s representatives think he deserves more than the five-year, $90 million deal Manning got from the Denver Broncos last March? Because, according to the report, they think Flacco is playing better than Manning.

I heard from a lot of outraged Broncos fans about that claim. My thoughts?

Well, Flacco is in the Super Bowl and one of the reasons why he is in New Orleans is because he and the Ravens beat Manning and the Broncos in the playoffs. For the moment, Flacco is playing better than Manning because he is still playing and Manning is not. It’s the old-fashioned "scoreboard" reasoning.

Of course, Manning is an MVP favorite and he had a better year than Flacco. If you polled 32 teams, I’d bet the vast majority would rather have Manning, who will be 37 in March, than Flacco in 2013.

But Flacco is 28 and he in his prime. Thus, a Super Bowl quarterback who is a free agent in the prime of his career is definitely going to try to beat the contract of the last huge contract signed by a premier veteran quarterback. It doesn’t mean he is disrespecting Manning. It’s just business.

In other AFC West-related news:

My thoughts on the report that the New York Jets are exploring the idea of signing former Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell?

Man, the Jets are a mess. Russell is in the early stages of his comeback. He hasn’t played in four years and he was awful when he played. He has to prove himself to earn his way back into the NFL. I just don’t know why the Jets are having any interest before Russell shows he belongs.

Russell comeback: It won't be easy

January, 23, 2013

So, JaMarcus Russell says he wants to play in the NFL again. Good for him.

It doesn’t mean he will. Russell has big obstacles in front of him before securing an NFL contract.

Russell, the No. 1 pick of the 2007 draft, and considered one of the biggest all-time NFL draft busts, hasn’t played since Oakland cut him in the spring of 2010. Russell is 27.

He has attempted comebacks in the past. Russell will have a difficult time getting interest from the NFL because he has been out of the league so long, his poor physical condition, and the poor reputation he earned while in the NFL.

NFL teams keep an open mind, but I’m sure no teams are changing their calendars this spring in anticipation of seeing Russell. If he does get in shape, can shake off the rust, and gain the trust teams, there will be interest. But there are no guarantees of any of that happening.

Evening AFC West notes

January, 9, 2013
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that new Kansas City coach Andy Reid is interviewing former Minnesota head coach Brad Childress for a role on his staff. Childress, currently the Cleveland Browns' offensive coordinator, has been linked to the Chiefs since Reid was hired. He was offensive coordinator under Reid in Philadelphia, so it won’t be a surprise at all if he ends up in Kansas City.

The Kansas City Star has a look at three men in the running to become the Chiefs’ general manager: John Dorsey, Tom Gamble and Tom Heckert. Dorsey is considered a top candidate.

Denver left tackle Ryan Clady (shoulder) and left guard Chris Kuper (shoulder) practiced fully Wednesday and seem ready to play Saturday against the Ravens. Backup cornerback Tracy Porter (concussion) did not practice.

In an Insider piece, Steve Muench looks at the top pass-rushers Insider available in the draft. One of these players could end up being Oakland’s pick at No. 3.

In another Insider piece, Mel Kiper re-does the 2007 draft Insider. No, JaMarcus Russell didn’t make the cut this time.
Rolando McClain was supposed to be different.

He was supposed to break the chain of poor first-round drafting by the Oakland Raiders. Oakland took McClain with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft. It was well received because McClain was expected to be a sure thing. He was a star on a defense of stars for Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide.

Many teams wanted him. McClain earned immediate kudos for asking for his playbook as soon as he was drafted. He was going to be the anti-JaMarcus Russell.

It went downhill from there.

McClain was not a good NFL player and it seems like his time is up in Oakland before his third NFL season is over. ESPN’s John Clayton is reporting McClain will be cut Thursday.

The situation became murky Wednesday when McClain missed practice and the team said it was because of a team-related issue. McClain then took to social media, saying he was no longer a Raider.

McClain never lived up to his billing on the field. He was out of shape, slow and often out of position. He didn’t show the instincts expected from a top-10 pick. He was convicted on a gun charge last year, but it was recently overturned on an appeal, according to his attorney.

The new Oakland regime was charged with salvaging McClain’s time in Oakland. He didn’t make improvements and his playing time dwindled in some games. Now, it is over.

McClain will be the 27th player to leave since new general manager Reggie McKenzie took over. Last week, fellow starting linebacker Aaron Curry was cut.

Changes like this show that the Raiders are rebuilding and patience is needed with the new regime. McKenzie is trying to reconstruct a team with a bad salary cap situation and small draft classes. Getting rid of players who didn’t work out like McClain is also part of the process. Perhaps more cuts are on the way.

McClain may be able to salvage his career elsewhere in the right situation. I’m sure some teams will be interested in him. Oakland will hope he is claimed so the rest of his contract is taken on. But that may not be easy. I could see McClain passing through waivers.

Like every NFL team, I think the three other AFC West teams could look at McClain because he can fit in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. But each team will have to decide if trying to salvage McClain is worth its time.

As for Oakland, newly signed veteran Omar Gaither will likely play at middle linebacker for the time being.

Oakland will look for a middle linebacker in the offseason. One target may be Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o if he is available when Oakland picks in the NFL draft. He is expected to be a top-five pick. Oakland is currently on pace to pick fourth. Te’o is considered a can’t miss prospect.

Sound familiar?