Ending the longest holdout in over two decades by the NFL's top draft pick, quarterback JaMarcus Russell signed with the Raiders, the team announced Sept. 12.
"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 will be guaranteed a record $29 million in his six-year $61 million deal, according to The Associated Press. He would get an additional $3 million if he reaches minimal playing time incentives.
Russell, right, reportedly 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 reaches all incentives in the deal, it would be worth $68 million.
Itís the richest contract for a rookie in NFL history.
"Once I signed the contract I did drop a few tears just to know that I'm a blessed person," Russell said at a news conference Sept. 12 after his first practice with the Raiders since a June minicamp. "Very blessed to be in the place I am today and worked hard for it and I can't wait to go out there and work even harder and just to get it."
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson held the previous record deal for a rookie when the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft received $27.2 million in guaranteed money.
Top pick Mario Williams got $26.5 million guaranteed from the Houston Texans in 2006. Alex Smith received 24 million guaranteed from the 49ers in 2005.
Russell's holdout lasted 48 days. He missed all of training camp, all four of Oaklandís exhibition games and its season opener. The Raiders reportedly will get a two-week roster exemption for the former Louisiana State star.
"He's at a definite disadvantage," Raiders coach Lane Kiffin told reporters Sept. 12. "You're talking about hundreds and hundreds of reps in preseason and being in games. We can't simulate what he missed. That's put him in a tough situation."
Russell said: "I feel like I'm a ways away. I have the whole year and the rest of my life ó that's what it seems like ó to get used to everything."
Russellís holdout is the longest for a top pick since 1986, when Bo Jackson opted to play baseball instead of signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jackson went back in the draft a year later and was selected by the Raiders during the seventh round.
The last first-round pick not to be signed by the season opener was offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie, who missed the first eight games in 2002 after being selected with the seventh overall choice by the Minnesota Vikings.
"I know there's a business side of it but I didn't know the business side was going to happen to me that fast," Russell told reporters Sept. 12.
When Russell's roster exemption expires, the Raiders would have to make a move on their 53-man roster. They entered the season with three quarterbacks ó starter Josh McCown, Daunte Culpepper and Andrew Walter.
Russell went 25-4 as LSUís starting quarterback before entering the 2007 NFL draft after his junior year. He finished his LSU career with the second most touchdown passes (52) and second highest completion percentage (61.9 percent) in school history.