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Raiders release former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell

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Associated Press
5/6/2010 9:48:19 PM
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Three years, more than US$39 million and only seven wins as the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders.

The verdict is in on JaMarcus Russell's career in Oakland and he just might be the NFL's biggest draft bust.

The Raiders released Russell on Thursday, just three years after making him the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.

The decision came less than two weeks after Oakland acquired Jason Campbell from Washington to take over at quarterback. It signifies that owner Al Davis finally lost patience with the immensely talented but unproductive player he drafted in 2007 against the wishes of former coach Lane Kiffin.

"We wish him well," senior executive John Herrera told The Associated Press.

Russell will now be considered one of the biggest busts in NFL draft history, joining the likes of Ryan Leaf, Ki-Jana Carter, Akili Smith, Tony Mandarich, Charles Rogers, Heath Shuler and Blair Thomas on that list.

Russell showed up at last week's minicamp, saying he would keep coming to work until told otherwise. He looked decent in the first of five practices last weekend, but got less work as the weekend went on, and the decision to cut ties finally was made.

The Raiders paid Russell about $36.4 million through last season. They still owe him $3 million more, putting the final tally on his earnings at about $39.4 million. But the team saved $6.45 million by not having him on the roster in 2010.

Since the start of the common draft in 1967, only one other No. 1 pick was released this quickly in his NFL career. Indianapolis cut 1992 top pick Steve Emtman after three seasons, but that was more because of injuries than production.

Emtman played three more seasons for Miami and Washington. It remains to be seen whether any team will give the 24-year-old Russell another shot.

Davis believed Russell could turn the fortunes of his struggling franchise when he drafted him. He stood by him during his struggles, revealing when he fired Kiffin in 2008 that the coach did not want him.

"He is a great player. Get over it and coach this team on the field," Davis read from a letter he sent Kiffin before the firing. "That is what you were hired to do. We can win with this team."

But the Raiders were unable to win with Russell at the helm and Davis allowed coach Tom Cable, Kiffin's successor, to bench Russell midway through last season. The move was popular in the locker room and gave the team a spark on the field as Bruce Gradkowski led comeback wins over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

Davis was not satisfied with Gradkowski as his standard bearer and the Raiders were linked to possible off-season deals for Donovan McNabb and Ben Roethlisberger. While the Raiders downplayed how serious those talks ever got, they did make the move for another quarterback when they acquired Campbell from Washington for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick.

The team showed confidence in Campbell by extending his contract through 2011, giving him a $4.5 million deal for that season on top of the $3.14 million he is owed this season.

Russell won only seven of his 25 starts as the Raiders extended an NFL-worst streak to seven straight seasons with at least 11 losses. He completed just 52.1 per cent of his passes in his career with 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, 15 lost fumbles and a passer rating of 65.2.

That means Russell has been paid more than $5 million per win, more than $2 million per touchdown pass and more than $100,000 per completion.

While Russell's numbers are superior to Leaf's, he was paid considerably more money to do it and was picked first overall instead of second. Leaf's rookie contract guaranteed him only $11.25 million.

Russell's tenure in Oakland got off to a rough start and never got much better. He held out his first season, not signing a contract until after the first game of the regular season. That made his rookie season almost a complete loss, as he started only one game.

He showed some signs of progress in his second season, especially in winning the final two games against Houston and Tampa Bay. But the problems of work ethic and his weight never disappeared and his third season was an utter disaster.

He was fined for being overweight when he showed up at training camp. He then put together one of the worst seasons in recent memory for an NFL quarterback. He completed 48.8 per cent of his passes, with three touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 50.0 passer rating that was the lowest since Leaf, Bobby Hoying and Craig Whelihan all finished below 50 in 1998.

NOTES: The Raiders also announced that they signed free agent running back Michael Bennett to a contract.

 JaMarcus Russell  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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