By LES BOWEN
The mistake was made about a year ago. Everyone agrees it was a simple mistake. But as often happens with mistakes, fixing it seems much more complicated.
The bottom line, agent Fletcher Smith said last night, is that the dialogue between the Eagles and Brian Westbrook over the extra $3 million the Birds paid his client last spring "hasn't been adversarial at all." Smith said Westbrook certainly intends to pay back the money, once he and the team figure out exactly how much he owes.
That's the complicated part. Westbrook didn't really get an extra $3 million, the result of a March 2006 roster bonus being paid twice, Smith said. The check he received, minus withholding, was for something like $1.7 million or $1.8 million. Once it's clear exactly how much Westbrook got, and whether he paid other taxes based on having the extra money in his coffers, Westbrook will remit the sum, Smith said.
According to a source close to the situation, the Eagles filed a grievance with the league because, otherwise, the NFL could have construed the double payment as some sort of "intentional mistake" - an unofficial loan, which could have been penalized by the loss of draft picks or cap room. It remains unclear exactly how the Eagles made the error, but the source said neither Westbrook nor the team realized the extra payment had been made until after the season ended. Smith has no connection with Westbrook's finances, and had no way of knowing anything was amiss.
Smith said he'd never seen such a situation, but he said that when he inquired with the NFL Players' Association, he was told it wasn't unprecedented.
Westbrook, 27, is coming off a career year - 1,217 rushing yards and an average of 6.0 yards per touch, the league's second-best mark. His ability to carry a heavier workload and stay healthy was a huge part of the Birds' return to the playoffs.
Westbrook's 5-year, $24.9 million contract was signed late in the 2005 season, while he was playing under a 1-year, restricted free agent tender, and includes $9.5 million in bonus money. The agreement ended a contentious negotiation between Westbrook and the team, which included a training camp holdout and a swich in agents from Anthony Agnone to Smith, who also represents Donovan McNabb and Correll Buckhalter.
April 16, 2007
By LES BOWEN