November 16, 2007

Westbrook To Holdout?

Storylines already promising to punctuate the Eagles' offseason are Donovan McNabb's fate in Philadelphia, Andy Reid's ongoing crisis at home and the impending free agency of tight end L.J. Smith.

Brian Westbrook's contract situation could be another side story -- or perhaps even more attention-catching than the other three.

In his weekly press conference, Westbrook hinted Wednesday that his contract might need some reworking, lest the Eagles want another ugly holdout situation come training camp.

Westbrook danced around the question of whether or not the five-year, $25-million pact he signed in 2005 that included a signing bonus of $6 million remains fair market value.

"The contract I signed back then, it made sense for me at that point," Westbrook said. "Right now, I try not to get into contract numbers and contract talk right now. We're focusing on trying to win football games. For this team, we don't want anything to distract us from doing that."

The Eagles play winless Miami on Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.

Westbrook held out of training camp in 2005 before the Eagles negotiated an extension.

Helping Westbrook is his age (28) and ascent into the prime of his career. The Eagles haven't batted an eyelash at showing the door to players over 30 seeking contract extensions.

But they have extended contracts of peak performers early in their careers. Four years remained on McNabb's contract when the Eagles awarded him a 12-year extension in 2002. Last year, the Eagles locked up Trent Cole, Mike Patterson, Reggie Brown and three offensive linemen with long-term contracts. Of the six, four were in their second year with the team.

Since signing a contract in 2005, Westbrook has emerged as one of the league's top all-around backs, and his durability is less of a question mark. He went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark last season for the first time, totaling 1,917 offensive yards and 11 touchdowns, both career highs, while playing 15 games and both postseason games.

Westbrook is on pace to eclipse those marks this season. His 1,219 yards from scrimmage are second-best in the NFL, along with his 6.1 yards-per-touch average. His three touchdowns against the Redskins on Sunday gave him nine for the season.

But the short life span of NFL running backs almost guarantees that Westbrook's only shot to land a windfall similar to LaDainian Tomlinson's eight-year, $60 million contract with San Diego or Larry Johnson's six-year, $45-million deal with Kansas City has already passed.

"I think any player -- offense, defense, any position -- looks at the contract and tries to maximize the money they get, because you never know what's going to happen in the future," Westbrook said. "You never know what's going to transpire. There's nothing guaranteed in the NFL except for your signing bonus, so you try to maximize that as much you can."


Looks like another bargain contract for the Eagles is going to blow up in their face. Please don't pull a T.O. Westbrook. Everybody knows you are better than that.

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