Culpepper Becomes Plan B For Raiders

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: August 16, 2007

PHILADELPHIA — The signing of the Daunte Culpepper with the Oakland Raiders is a bonafide risk-reward for the former two-time Pro Bowl player and to the Raiders’ organization. The Raiders got a much needed insurance policy against an extended holdout by No. 1 overall pick QB JaMarcus Russell and Culpepper gets the chance he wanted to compete for a starting job.

Earlier as training camps opened, it seemed that Culpepper, who acts as his own agent had made a bad choice by reportedly turning down a three year and $15 million contract to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars, because he wanted to be a starter. After Culpepper’s cold shoulder act, the Jaguars decided to go an entirely different route, bringing back former No. 1 overall pick Tim Couch from the NFL graveyard (maybe former Bengals pick Akili Smith wasn’t available).

With rumors circulating that Culpepper was still injured (torn ACL, PCL, MCL in 2005) and having been labeled a malcontent by some evaluators due to his problems in Miami, his agent status, and allegedly leaking information through his blog, GM’s were running for cover and there was nary a quarterback job anywhere. The situation got so bad that not even the Atlanta Falcons, who are dealing with the Michael Vick dogfighting fiasco didn’t have room for him.

The Tampa Buccaneers also took a pass on him after a workout even though they already have a zillion quarterbacks all with question marks and other teams like the Ravens and Vikings flat out said they had no interest. Culpepper seemed to be out of options other than waiting for a quarterback to be injured during the regular season or signing with the CFL. That was until once again the NFL’s reclamation team, the Oakland Raiders, seeing that Russell’s contract holdout was not going anywhere any time soon signed Culpepper to a one-year deal.

Raiders owner and architect Al Davis has long subscribed to the motto of “Give me your tired, your poor, and your malcontent out of work NFL players” (and you thought it was “Just Win, Baby”). He has worked his magic before resurrecting the careers of similarly so called “finished” players Lyle Alzado, James Lofton, Billy Cannon, and others, so why not try and bring Culpepper back from the ashes.

Russell in the mean time has been in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama for the past week instead of in training camp and is rumored to be looking for a contract in the neighborhood of last year’s No. 1 overall pick DE Mario Williams ($26.5 million guaranteed as part of a six-year, $54 million). With new Raiders Head Coach Lane Kiffin seeing that current journeyman QBs Josh McCown and Andrew Walter were not enough, he figured why not take a chance on Culpepper.

In looking at the signing, I like the it, because the Raiders (2-14 in ’06) could net a proven starting quarterback when healthy or a high priced clipboard carrier for a good price. But either way they are covered against Russell’s demands. Culpepper hopefully will return to his pre-injury 2004 form (41 total TDs, 4,717 yards passing) and could earn a new contract next year.

He will make as much as $5.5 million or as little as $750,000 for his one-year audition with the Raiders. After a 1-3 season as a starter for the Dolphins including being sacked 21 times with a meager two TD’s and three INT’s, Culpepper has nowhere to go, but up.

No matter who is the starting quarterback for the Raiders, they will find themselves in a very tough spot, because they have a 31-year-old rookie head coach, three question marks at wide receiver (a converted quarterback, a Lions castoff and a malcontent who was suspended most of last season), and a porous O-line led by disappointing former first round pick Robert Gallery (an NFL-worst 72 sacks last season).