It appears that the once dormant market for former Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook is heating up. Fresh off a trip to the Washington Redskins, Westbrook is in Denver visiting the Broncos.
The Broncos’ interest appears to be serious, as reports indicate that the NFL free-agent Westbrook cancelled an engagement in Washington to head to Denver immediately after meeting with the Redskins.
Westbrook visited St. Louis two weeks ago, where he passed his physical and was offered a contract by the Rams. In St. Louis, he would be reunited with former Eagles quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur, who is the Rams’ offensive coordinator, and runs the same offense that the Eagles use.
The 30 year old Westbrook is coming off a season in which he suffered two concussions, causing him to miss eight games. He finished the season with 274 rushing yards and 181 receiving yards, to go along with two touchdowns, easily his lowest production since his rookie season.
During his eight years in the league, the former Villanova product has amassed 5,992 rushing yards, 3,790 receiving yards, and 66 touchdowns.
Although Westbrook has hit the dreaded 30 year-old mark for running backs (he will be 31 on opening day), he was productive when in the lineup in 2009, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
However, given his age and injury issues, he is clearly viewed as a backup capable of assuming a change of pace, be it a receiving role, or as a fill-in.
Both the Redskins and Broncos are deep at running back with Washington featuring three older backs in Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, and Willie Parker. However, the only major financial commitment is to Portis.
Former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is apparently pushing Redskins management, as well as new head coach Mike Shanahan, on the merits of adding his former teammate Westbrook to the roster.
Although the Redskins’ and Broncos’ interest in Westbrook seems genuine, former San Diego Charger LaDainian Tomlinson’s signing with the New York Jets likely provides the best clues as to where Westbrook will emerge.
Tomlinson wound up on a Jets team that runs the ball heavily, and has a player ahead of him on the depth chart with a limited resume of success. Hence, Tomlinson has a bigger opportunity to carve out a significant role with the Jets than he did with the Minnesota Vikings, his other suitor.
Of the three teams interested in Westbrook, the Rams figure to provide him with the most opportunity for playing time. Their feature runner, Steven Jackson, has a history of dealing with injuries and just underwent back surgery, and there is no proven backup on the roster.
The team’s wide receivers feature young, and up-and-coming players, and the depth chart at tight end features five players who have a combined 52 receptions in the NFL. Westbrook would likely be featured in the Rams offense even with Jackson healthy.
Westbrook is an intriguing player for fantasy purposes, given his history of production, and ability to produce in a limited capacity as a receiving threat out of the backfield. Even on a team that figures to struggle offensively like the Rams, he will likely put up reasonable production provided he can stay healthy.
Although the knock on Westbrook has been that he is injury prone, a closer look reveals that not to be the case. In his first seven years in the league, he played in 99 of 112 regular season games.
Clearly, the concussion issue is a significant one, but Westbrook is definitely worth taking a later round flier on in fantasy leagues, especially if he winds up in St. Louis behind Jackson.