The Oakland Raiders are finally done with one of the biggest draft busts in the history of the NFL. On Tuesday, Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Raiders and JaMarcus Russell have reached a settlement in the long standing wage dispute that began when the Raiders cut Russell back in May of 2010.
Over three years later, it appears that the two sides have decided to settle rather than continue the legal battle. According to Tafur, the Raiders will pay Russell just under $3 million dollars and finally put an end to their Russell dealings.
Back when the grievances began, the Raiders were claiming that Russell actually owed the team $9.55 million, while Russell was seeking payment of $9 million that he believed was still owed to him. Both of those numbers, however, appear to be more of posturing than reality.
Whenever a party enters litigation, they always shoot for the stars when it comes to the amount of damages they are seeking. Trust me, I would know since I am an attorney and I have done this myself many times. Ok, I know it seems oxymoronic to trust an attorney, but give me a chance.
When someone enters into litigation, they know there is slim to no chance they will get the number that they ask for. As a result, they always inflate the number in order to give themselves negotiating room. That way, once things get to the point of settlement negotiations, they can allow themselves to be negotiated down while still hitting a number they are comfortable with.
Given Al Davis’ penchant for litigation, it is entirely possible that the Raiders knew all along that they would likely get nothing and possibly wind up paying something to Russell. That’s because it is entirely possible that the purpose of the grievances were simply to punish Russell.
Think about it. The Raiders have lawyers who are salaried. No matter how much work they do on a case, they will get paid the exact same amount. Russell, on the other hand, had to hire a lawyer. A salaried lawyer will always be much cheaper than hiring a lawyer for a specific case and here is why: Russell’s lawyer either charged an hourly rate or did a contingency agreement.
My hourly rate is $250/hr and I am a very young attorney and cannot command a large hourly rate. Russell’s attorneys could very well charge in excess of $500/hr. Just imagine how many hours they have wracked up over three years. Just to give you an idea, the first document created, the grievance which claimed the Raiders still owed Russell $9 million could easily have cost over $2,000.00 by itself.
Russell could also have a contingent agreement with his attorney. In a contingent agreement, the attorney gets paid a percentage of the winnings in a case, but only gets paid if there are winnings. Generally, the percentage of the settlement or judgment that an attorney takes is based on the amount of time spent on a case. In a case that has lasted three years, it would not be surprising to see a contingent agreement where the attorney will collect in excess of 40% of the settlement.
So, while the Raiders may be seen as the loser here since they are paying Russell, that may not be the way it is viewed by the organization and its attorneys. If the purpose was to punish Russell and make him work for that last bit of money, they succeeded. Clearly I am speculating as to why the litigation occurred, but from Tafur’s piece, it looks like $3 million was the number the Raiders owed back in 2010, and there did not seem to be a lot of question about that.
If it is true that the Raiders owed around $3 million in 2010, at the minimum, they ensured that Russell had to wait three years and will not get all $3 million since a not insignificant sum will wind up in the bank account for his lawyers. Meanwhile, the Raiders paid their lawyers the exact same amount of money they would have paid had they not filed the grievance against Russell.