Friday, August 05, 2005

Westbrook update

This is breaking news from overnight provided by Bob Brookover, the Inquirer's Eagles beat reporter:

Brian Westbrook and his agent want a long-term deal from the Eagles, but they're also aware that if the running back does not report to training camp by Monday he will lose his potential to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

In other words, the only way they can win in the contract dispute with the Eagles is by reaching agreement on a long-term contract extension.

"We're going to continue to look at all options," Smith said early this morning. "The [collective bargaining agreement] doesn't provide very many choices for someone in Brian's position. Someone asked me about our leverage, but that's tough to answer, especially when the team has most of the leverage."

Smith put out a release from his Skokie, Ill., office that outlined the obstacles Westbrook has operated under as a restricted free agent this off-season.

"On June 1, we executed the one-year tender with the Philadelphia Eagles to facilitate the negotiation of a long-term contract for Brian Westbrook," the statement said. "It is well documented that Brian had until June 15 to sign the tender. If it remained unsigned beyond June 15, the Eagles could have exercised their right to reduce Brian's 2005 salary substantially."

Westbrook, who hired Smith after firing agent Anthony Agnone, signed the Eagles' $1.43 million tender and attended the team's voluntary minicamp in June after boycotting a similar camp the month before.

That move triggered the start of negotiations between Smith and the Eagles, but when the sides hadn't come to an agreement by Monday's reporting date for training camp, Westbrook decided to stage a holdout that surprised and angered the Eagles.

The statement from Smith's CSMG company also laments Article XVIII, Section 1 (b) of the collective bargaining agreement that says any player under contract who doesn't report 30 days before the first NFL game of the regular season loses a year of credited service.

For Westbrook, that means he would lose his right to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

"We are and have been aware of Article XVIII of the collective bargaining agreement as it pertains to Brian," the statement said. "Despite the ramifications thereof, Brian and I remain unified with respect to all decisions made regarding the current state of affairs. We will continue to exhaust all options available to Brian until such time when we are able to secure a favorable long-term contract."

According to team sources, the Eagles have offered Westbrook a five-year deal with a signing bonus of about $9 million, which is $4 million more than such star running backs as Green Bay's Ahman Green, Houston's Domanick Davis and Carolina's Stephen Davis.

The bonus is $2 million more than Tiki Barber got from the New York Giants and $2.5 million more than Warrick Dunn received from Atlanta. It is $1 million more than Fred Taylor got from Jacksonville.

Clinton Portis of Washington received a signing bonus of close to $13 million, and LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers received $16 million in the first year of his contract last year.

Westbrook isn't looking for Portis and Tomlinson money, but Eagles president Joe Banner has conceded that the running back was seeking more than the team was willing to offer.

"We just have to try to explore all avenues to get something done," Smith said.

The first step will probably come today with a call from Smith to Banner. Smith declined to talk about any of the specifics of the deal, but said that Westbrook's main goal was to get a long-term extension from the Eagles.

"There is no question about that," Smith said. "The system has allowed him to flourish in very many ways. I'm not saying he couldn't do well in another system, but the Eagles' system has been great for him. He wants to be compensated, too. Regardless of the market, Brian is one of the most important players in that offense.

"This has been a difficult decision for Brian. He is a football player first and he obviously wants to be out there. But he has to protect his interests. He doesn't have a guaranteed contract and given the violent nature of the sport, he has to protect his interests. But every step of the way, he hasn't had much choice. This was one opportunity to express his protest."

Given the rules of the trade, it would seem that the protest will end by Monday.

The only question now is whether it will end with Westbrook's signing a long-term deal or playing one final year before becoming an unrestricted free agent.


At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jim Jenks,

Is there any news on Pinkston or Buckhalter? Also, can you confirm reports that the Bills are interested in acquiring Corey Simon?


At 1:51 PM, Blogger Jim Jenks said...

Check out the blog in about 10 minutes and I will have the update.

At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks. I'll go back to the site and tell the guys. They are hungry for info on these injuries!


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