Determined to provide a veteran mentor for JaMarcus Russell, and to have an experienced quarterback on hand so they would not have to rush the top player selected in the 2007 draft into the lineup immediately, the Oakland Raiders on Saturday night acquired Josh McCown from the Detroit Lions.
The teams had been discussing a McCown trade for weeks, with the Raiders feeling the five-year veteran could challenge for the starting job. Oakland also added former first-round wide receiver Mike Williams, the Lions' top pick in the 2005 draft, in the swap.
The Raiders surrendered a fourth-round pick, the 105th selection overall in this weekend's draft, as compensation in the trade.
Oakland inquired about several veteran quarterbacks through Saturday's proceedings but determined that McCown, a five-year veteran with 22 starts, was the best available option. He will give the team a safety net in the event Russell, selected by the Raiders with the opening pick Saturday, is not ready to step into the starting lineup.
McCown, 27, signed a two-year contract with the Lions last spring, after spending his first four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. McCown was supposed to compete for the starting job in Detroit, but Jon Kitna won the job early in the summer and started all 16 contests. McCown did not take a snap during the 2006 season.
A former Sam Houston State standout, McCown has completed 498 of 862 passes for 5,431 yards, with 25 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions, for an efficiency rating of 72.1. He has a strong enough arm to fit into the offense that Oakland first-year head coach Lane Kiffin is installing and is a quick learner.
The Raiders will inherit the one year remaining on McCown's contract, and his scheduled base salary of $2 million for 2007. Barring an extension, McCown, who has the ability to vie for a starting job in the league, will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring. He had indicated, several weeks ago, a preference to be dealt to Oakland, given his job status with the Lions.
When the Lions chose Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton on Saturday, it gave them enough depth at the position to trade McCown to the Raiders.
Williams, 23, becomes the second of the three wide receivers chosen by Detroit between 2003-05 to bomb with the team. The Lions earlier released Charles Rogers, a first-round selection in 2003. Detroit had been shopping Williams and had in-depth discussions with several teams, including Tennessee, about a deal.
In two seasons, Williams, who battled weight problems in Detroit and was often fined for not making the limit prescribed for him by the coaches, had just 37 catches for 449 yards and two touchdowns. The former Southern Cal star played in 22 games with just six starts. The Lions chose Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson with the second overall pick Saturday, and that made Williams expendable.
Williams was an expensive first-round mistake for the Lions, who chose him with the 10th overall pick in 2005. In two seasons, Detroit paid him nearly $10 million in bonuses and base salaries. He has four years left on his contract, which the Raiders will assume.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.