Oklahoma receiver Dede Westbrook, a Heisman Trophy finalist and Biletnikoff Award winner with a history of domestic abuse allegations, will be on a short leash with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
General manager Dave Caldwell said the team believes Westbrook has matured, but the franchise won’t tolerate any off-the-field problems with the NFL draft’s 110th selection.
“Obviously he’s had some issues earlier in his career we feel that’s behind him, and it has to be behind him,” Caldwell said. “… With coach (Doug) Marrone and coach (Tom) Coughlin here there’s no margin for error for him off the field.”
Westbrook was accused of domestic violence by the mother of his two children in 2012 and in 2013. The district attorney’s office rejected the first charge and the second charge was dropped because prosecutors could not locate a witness.
Westbrook said he was open about what happened with teams during combine interviews and had an even more extensive conversation with the Jaguars during a pre-draft visit.
“I was honest with them right when I went in there,” Westbrook said. “We built the relationship from the start of it. They held their end of the bargain. Now it’s time for me to hold mine.”
Westbrook said he has matured significantly since his last arrest.
“I felt like my past, I’ve grown up and I’ve learned a lot from it,” Westbrook said. “Of course, my past happened a few years ago and it made me a lot wiser and made me think things over, so every situation I go about, I think it through twice or three times and get someone else’s opinion and make sure it’s correct all the way around.”
Westbrook caught 126 passes for 2,267 yards (18 yards per catch) and 21 touchdowns in two seasons at Oklahoma. He won the Biletnikoff Award — given to the country’s top receiver — and was one of five Heisman Trophy finalists last season.
Caldwell said the Jaguars felt Westbrook was a value pick in the fourth round because he has higher-round talent and fell because of the off-field concerns.
“I think we’ve done our due diligence enough to realize that’s behind him,” Caldwell said. “Like we said, all those charges were dropped. I think we’ve all been accused of things and had things — maybe not all of us — but plenty of us have been accused of things, but we don’t take it lightly. “Obviously it’s a serious issue and we just feel like that, at this point in time, give the kid a chance to make right.”