The Oakland Raiders, who own the No. 1 overall pick in this weekend's NFL draft, have had discussions with three players about possible contracts. However, the focus seems to be on one guy.
"It's really apparent from the way they're doing this that they want [LSU quarterback JaMarcus] Russell," said a person with knowledge of talks between the Raiders and representatives for Russell, Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson and Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. "They're playing on whose ego is caught up in being the No. 1 guy, expecting that one of those players is going to cave in."
Given that Quinn was the latest player to be involved in the talks, the feeling is that the Raiders are trying to put pressure on Russell to get the deal done.
Last year, the contracts for the top three picks – defensive end Mario Williams, running back Reggie Bush and quarterback Vince Young – all included more than $26 million in guaranteed money. The expectation by some people is that the guaranteed money on at least the top pick could exceed $30 million. That could prove difficult for the cash-strapped Raiders.
The Raiders have only talked about contract structure with Quinn and agent Tom Condon and have not put a specific dollar amount on the contract, as they have with Russell and agents Eric Metz and Ethan Locke. Thus, the feeling is that the Raiders are using Quinn as a threat to Russell in hopes of getting him to meet their terms in a timely fashion.
The interest in Johnson, who is represented by Bus Cook, is also seen as a ploy at this point to get some team to trade up with the Raiders for the No. 1 overall pick. The Raiders have talked with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 4 about a possible deal, but the Buccaneers have declined to meet Oakland owner Al Davis' asking price which could include as much as an '08 first-round pick.
Working to Oakland's advantage is that it's not clear where any of the three players will be drafted if they don't go No. 1 overall. The Detroit Lions have the No. 2 overall pick and like Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams, but would prefer to trade down a few spots to take him later.
Russell could go No. 3 to the Cleveland Browns, although they have also expressed interest in Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson. Johnson is likely to go no later than pick No. 4 to the Buccaneers and is the most likely player that some team will trade up with Detroit to get.
As for Quinn, his status is the most unclear. If not No. 1, he could go at No. 3 to Cleveland, No. 7 to the Minnesota Vikings or No. 9 to the Miami Dolphins. Despite that, Condon has remained confident that he can get a good contract for Quinn at any spot.
Condon represented USC quarterback Matt Leinart last year when Leinart fell to Arizona at the No. 10 overall slot. Leinart eventually held out for a six-year, $51 million contract that included $14 million in guarantees and numerous contract escalators.