Westbrook really has been shortchanged by the NFL's system. Because he was a third-round pick, he didn't get a big signing bonus in his rookie contract. Because he played for the minimum salaries in his first three years, he truly "outperformed" his contract, to borrow a phrase from Drew Rosenhaus. And because the Eagles still have the right to slap a franchise tag on him next winter, Westbrook may not get to unrestricted free agency until 2007 or even 2008.
You can see why the man is frustrated. He could go his entire career without getting the big guaranteed bonus that establishes his financial security. And it's all because of where he was drafted and the position he plays.
Consider his fellow members of the Eagles' 2002 draft class. Lito Sheppard was a first-round pick, so he got nearly $4 million in his rookie year, even though he barely played behind Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. Last year, Sheppard signed an extension that featured an $8.7 million signing bonus and $15.1 million in salary through 2011.
So Sheppard has already banked nearly $12 million. For a first-round cornerback, life is sweet.
Second-round pick Sheldon Brown got paid $2.25 million from his rookie contract before getting a $7.5 million signing bonus on an extension last year. That means he has banked roughly $10 million.
Westbrook, taken one round later, has made a total of about $1.3 million in bonus and salary. He is scheduled to make $1.43 million on his restricted free agent tender this season.
That sounds like a lot of money to the average person, and it is. But for a guy who has been the second-most important offensive player on a championship-caliber team, behind only the quarterback, it's a pittance.
If ever there was a time to side with a player over management, this is it.