On Tuesday, the Eagles announced that they would be releasing running back Brian Westbrook. Westbrook has been a fixture in the Philadelphia offense for almost a decade, but injuries, most notably multiple concussions in recent years, have limited both his playing time and effectiveness.
What makes the announcement of the release – which will reportedly be delayed until March 5 for salary cap issues that will make the 2010 salary cap moot – so surprising is that it would appear to have little to nothing to do with Westbrook's desire to continue playing or not. For a player who has spent that long with an organization and meant so much to its success, it would have been logical for the team to come to Westbrook, discuss the matter and, if he chose to retire, have a hero's sendoff and allow him to retire as an Eagle and take his place among the greats of the franchise.
Instead, it would appear the Eagles are merely making a business decision. Westbrook was due $7.25 million this season and, at age 30, wasn't close to living up to that kind of a contract. Westbrook suffered a pair of concussions in 2009 and had a history of injuries that included previous concussions, as well as ankle and knee problems.
Because Westbrook doesn't have an expiring contract, like LaDainian Tomlinson, who was released by San Diego Monday, he would be available to the final four teams in the playoffs (the Vikings, Saints, Colts and Jets), despite rules prohibiting those teams from signing unrestricted free agents until they lost one of their own.
Like the Tomlinson discussion from Monday, Westbrook would be a veteran presence that, if he cleared medical tests and has a desire to continue playing in the NFL, would be a solid fit with the Vikings. He spent his entire career with Brad Childress on the Eagles coaching staff prior to Childress getting the head-coaching job with the Vikings. He is an adept receiver and, if healthy and willing, would be a solid replacement for Chester Taylor if he leaves via free agency.
While the betting odds seem to be tilted in the direction of Westbrook announcing his retirement, the timing of the announcement by the Eagles is curious simply in respect to the team going public about its intention to cut ties with the former Pro Bowl running back. In the meantime, he has been given permission to speak to other teams, despite still being under contract with the Eagles.
Considering the Vikings' situation – potentially losing a running back on the wrong side of 30 and potentially replacing him with one of two guys who are also 30-plus – Westbrook might find himself in the same position as Tomlinson. If either of them wants to continue their NFL careers, they likely will explore the chances of competing for a starting job, which simply won't happen in Minnesota as long as Adrian Peterson is in the backfield. But it has made for an interesting couple of days prior to the team converging on Indianapolis for the Combine.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.