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JaMarcus Russell and the Oakland Raiders agreed in principle Monday night to a six-year contract that will guarantee the quarterback more than $30 million in the richest contract ever for a rookie.
The two sides met in person Monday for the third time in four days and were hashing out final details of the contract, according to a person familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not finalized.
The final contract needs to be approved by the NFL, but it will be worth at least $60 million with about $31 million guaranteed, the person said. An official announcement could come Tuesday.
The previous record deal for a rookie came 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.
Russell's agent, Eric Metz, did not return a phone call seeking comment. But coach Lane Kiffin said earlier in the day the two sides were almost done with the contract.
Russell became the first top pick to remain unsigned by the season opener since Bo Jackson sat out the 1986 season to play baseball after being drafted first by Tampa Bay.
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 pick by the Minnesota Vikings.
Russell went 25-4 as LSU's starting quarterback, capping his career by throwing for 332 yards and two TDs in a 41-14 Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame. He finished 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.
That success combined with a 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame and a rocket arm made Russell the choice for Oakland with the No. — pick in April. The Raiders are building their future around the 21-year-old quarterback, hoping he will help transform an offense that scored just 12 touchdowns last season on the way to a 2-14 record.
Even with Russell set to join the team later this week, he will not be able to contribute much to the Raiders anytime soon. He has missed all of training camp and the exhibition season and will have a difficult time catching up on the lost time.
That means that Josh McCown will remain the quarterback for the foreseeable future. McCown was 30-for-40 for 313 yards and two touchdowns in the 36-21 loss to the Detroit Lions. He also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in the closing minutes with the Raiders trailing by eight points.
Kiffin kept his decision to start McCown over Daunte Culpepper in the season opener a secret until right before game time, hoping to gain a competitive advantage by making the Lions prepare for two quarterbacks. He will not use the same kind of subterfuge this week, announcing Monday that McCown will start against the Denver Broncos.
"I thought Josh managed the game extremely well," Kiffin said. "A bunch of little things he did really well, as far as we didn't have a wrong formation all day, we didn't have a missed audible all day. He moved us really well at times. ... I thought he played really well."
The other starting spot Kiffin kept secret before the game was at center, where former Pro Bowler Jeremy Newberry beat out incumbent Jake Grove for the starting spot. But Newberry pulled his hamstring on the first drive and did not return to the game.
Newberry, who played in only 11 games the past three seasons because of various injuries, had never hurt his hamstring before. He tried to stay in the game despite the injury, but left after failing to realize McCown was in the shotgun on the final play of the opening drive.
"I should have come out of the game but I was like, 'Ah, maybe this thing will lighten up,'" Newberry said. "I didn't even hear shotgun. I was just trying to get to the line without my leg locking up on me. I should have came out of the game before the fourth play, I should have."
Russell holdout nears end as Raiders, top draft pick agree on huge contract
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