It's interesting to see the local reaction to the two outstanding contract situations currently facing the Eagles. First, there's Lito Sheppard who pretty much everyone acknowledges has little to no leverage and despite Rosenhaus "in the haus" won't be all that much of a problem.
Brian Westbrook is another story. Kevin Roberts of the Courier Post illustrates it well.
Sheppard's situation probably won't be much more than an annoyance, because he's got perilously little leverage. Sheppard is a terrific player, but he's had trouble staying on the field, and the Eagles signed Asante Samuel to play left corner.
Westbrook, on the other hand, has to be dealt with. He's plainly unhappy about his contract (he works in a statement to that effect just about every fourth or fifth sentence). He's not above holding out of camp (he did it in 2005). And he's got so much leverage, he's practically Archimedes.
Westbrook is the Eagles' best player. He's coming off the best offensive season in team history.
For those not up on their history of great greek thinkers, Archimedes was a mathemetician and physicist. For my money, I'll take Westbrook's punt return against the Giants over Archimedes explanation of the principle of the lever anyday...
I do take some umbrage with Roberts article on the whole however, because his point is more or less "just fix this Eagles." While I share his sentiment, the situation is a little more nuanced than that. Westbrook wants the kind of money teams just don't pay running backs pushing 30. Les Bowen hammers it home,
Westbrook said in a Sunday Inquirer story that he should get $30 million guaranteed, because, Westbrook said, the only NFL back currently in Westbrook's production class, San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, got $25 million guaranteed when he signed his last deal in 2004, time has passed, the cap is larger, etc.
One very large problem with that logic: The Tomlinson deal was signed 4 years ago. The Chargers were giving $21 million guaranteed - not $25 million - to a 25-year-old running back, not a 29-year-old running back, which is what Westbrook will be when the regular season opens. There is no NFL position where age matters so much. Nobody, anywhere, is giving $30 million guaranteed to a 29-year-old running back.
Bowen reminds us of the Shaun Alexander situation in which he signed an 8 year deal with $15 million guaranteed at the age of 29 and was released 2 years later... It's interesting to hear Bowen make this point because he's advocated that the Eagles should be giving Westbrook a new deal. Most people following the Eagles would likely agree that he's earned a raise, and most reports suggest that the Eagles agree and are willing to to do a deal... but sources say they aren't even close
Forget Lito Sheppard. Anthony Gargano says the Philadelphia Eagles and star running back Brian Westbrook are at least $15 million apart in contract talks.
Gargano said the Eagles were offering $15 million in guaranteed money to Westbrook, while his agent was asking for $30 million.
There's been some suggestions that the reason Westbrook fired his agent, Fletcher Smith, was partly due to the fact that Smith thought the Eagles offer was reasonable and had urged Westbrook to take it or at least lower this demands. Les Bowen thinks Westbrook might have trouble finding an agent that disagrees.
An Eagles source yesterday said the team still has not heard from anyone representing Westbrook. A source close to the situation suggested Westbrook is having trouble making up his mind.
If Westbrook is waiting for an agent who will tell him he can get $30 million guaranteed, at his position, at age 29, this might take a while.
The simple fact is that this is not a case of the Eagles being cheap or not wanting to reward players for great play. If reports are to be believed the Eagles offer appears to be more than fair and Westbrook's demand of $30 million guaranteed seems to be outrageous even by today's crazy standards.
We all love Westbrook and every Eagles fan appreciates what he's done on the field and the way he's carried himself off it. I'm sure we'd all like to see him get a raise and be rewarded for his service to the club... but could there be a point where public opinion starts to go against him? Has that already begun?