With rookies and selected veterans scheduled to report for Eagles training camp at Lehigh just three days away more interesting tidbits continue to surface. Yesterday it was the news that disgruntled cornerback Lito Sheppard had fired his agents Peter Schaffer and Lamont Smith and planned to sign with uber-agent Drew Rosenhaus. Today, it was learned by the Philadelphia Inquirer that star running back Brian Westbrook has jettisoned agent Fletcher Smith.
There was no word on who would be Westbrook’s new agent, but a source told Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News that it would not be Rosenhaus. By NFL rules, Westbrook cannot sign with a new agent for five days. Despite Sheppard’s shake up, it appears the two-time Pro Bowler will be in camp when all veterans are required to report next Thursday. Westbrook gave no such guarantee.
Known to be unhappy with the five-year, $25-million extension he signed three years ago, Westbrook may decide to skip out on the beginning of camp like he did in 2005. That year, Westbrook pulled a similar move and fired his agent, choosing to sign with Smith, who also represents quarterback Donovan McNabb. Against Smith’s advice, Westbrook held out of camp for a week, racking up $42,000 in fines in the process. Westbrook could easily pull the same stunt this year, but he now holds all the leverage.
Westbrook led the NFL in yards from scrimmage last year and finished third in rushing and was arguably the league’s MVP. Without Westbrook, an 8-8 Eagles season would have easily been much, much worse. Westbrook is believed to be seeking a deal similar to the one LaDainian Tomlinson signed for eight years and $80 million in 2004. The problem there is Tomlinson was 24 when he inked that deal. Westbrook will be 29 in September.
So what happens? Westbrook will hold out of camp for at least a week and the ever fickle Philly fans will grow more worried and critical of Eagles management with each passing day. The ever straight-lined Eagles front office might have their hand forced by their best player and have to do something they’ve rarely done – break their our-way-or-the-highway negotiating tactics and accommodate an unhappy star.