NAPA, Calif. (July 31, 2007) -- Free agent quarterback Daunte Culpepper signed a one-year contract with Oakland, giving the Raiders a backup plan for top draft pick JaMarcus Russell.
Culpepper, 30, worked out in the afternoon before a gathering of Raiders scouts and coaches. The workout was private and Culpepper left without speaking to reporters, but Oakland coach Lane Kiffin announced the signing shortly after the Raiders completed practice.
"We had to see him run around, scramble and do different things because his arm didn't go away," Kiffin said. "We weren't really worried about that. We had to make sure everything else was good."
Culpepper began 2006 as Miami's starter but had trouble with his mobility and was sacked 21 times in the first four games. The Dolphins shut him down so he could continue rehabbing and eventually placed him on injured reserve. When they acquired Trent Green in a trade with Kansas City this offseason, Culpepper became expendable.
"When I became a free agent I created and ranked eight criteria that I used to evaluate potential teams that were interested in my services," Culpepper said. "Based on my criteria, the Oakland Raiders are the best fit."
The Dolphins tried unsuccessfully to trade Culpepper a year after acquiring him from Minnesota. When Miami failed to find a team willing to trade for Culpepper, the former Pro Bowl quarterback was released on July 17. Culpepper met with Tampa Bay two days later but did not receive a contract offer from the Bucs.
The Raiders sent a member of their front office to Florida to work out Culpepper on July 30, then sent a private plane to fly the 6-foot-4, 265-pound quarterback to California for the Napa workout.
Culpepper said the Raiders "are giving me the opportunity to compete for the starting job," yet acknowledged that part of his role in Oakland will be helping Russell "get ready to take over for the future," he said.
"I also get an opportunity to show both the Raiders and the NFL community that I am healthy and back to form after battling injuries the last two seasons," Culpepper said. "Most importantly, I appreciated that there was mutual respect as we worked through the process of coming to contract terms."
Culpepper's signing comes three months after the Raiders traded away his former teammate in Minnesota, Randy Moss.
In eight NFL seasons, Culpepper has passed for 21,091 yards and 137 touchdowns with 89 interceptions. He has a career passer rating of 90.8.
Kiffin acknowledged that the Raiders wanted Culpepper partially due to the situation with Russell. The No. 1 pick has yet to sign a contract with Oakland and negotiations between the two sides slowed over the weekend.
Josh McCown, who was acquired in a draft day trade with Detroit, and Andrew Walter have split the reps in practice while Russell remains at his mother's home in Mobile, Ala.
"We think that he adds definite competition to a position right now where we basically only had two guys here with Andrew and Josh," Kiffin said. "They've done extremely well but we needed to protect ourselves and make sure we're in the best position to win and make sure we have the most competition at that spot.
Kiffin spoke with Russell by phone in the morning to brief the rookie on the possibility of Culpepper signing.
"Its always important for your team to know things, just as we informed both our quarterbacks last night that this was going to happen today (and) make sure they heard it from us and understood the reasons we were doing it," Kiffin said.
Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp spoke briefly with Culpepper and welcomed the signing.
"I know he's an effective quarterback because I've chased him and hunted him over the years," Sapp said. "I know he's had a good little off time to get himself back healthy. If he's healthy, he's more than an effective quarterback. Somebody up top thinks he can help our ball club so let's see what we got."
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2007, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved