(UPDATED with this contract observation: Reports are that the Denver deal is for five years but, stripped away, it is two years and $9 million if the Broncos want it that way, or $4.5 million per year. By contrast, Dawkins' cap number last year with the Eagles was reportedly a little bit north of $3.3 million.)
I'm supposed to be on vacation and I will be on vacation, after this.
Brian Dawkins, 1996-2009.
I'm sitting here, thinking about Dawkins in a Denver Broncos uniform. I'm seeing a new coach and a new personnel group working to set a new tone, on the field and off, and understanding why they would be so attracted to Dawkins and his singular personality. I'm seeing Dawkins, prideful, so prideful, working himself into a state that it will be hard to fathom. He talked recently about how Donovan McNabb always played better with a chip on his shoulder and, well, it will be hard to imagine Dawkins' upcoming fury.
How the Eagles allowed this to happen is beyond me. Because, you know, I understand the football part of it completely but it does not trump the rest of it. I understand that they were finding ways to hide Dawkins at times last year, scheming around him. I get that, and get that it was only going to get harder. But Dawkins remained a tangible force around the line of scrimmage. Even if his selection to the Pro Bowl in 2008 smacked of a kind of lifetime-achievement award, even if he was heading toward part-time status within the next year or so, there had to be a way to get this done. They are so far under the NFL's salary cap, tens and tens and tens of millions to the good, that there had to be some way to make a deal.
It was the old Eagles coach from the '60s, Joe Kuharich, who famously said that if you start letting the fans make the decisions for you, soon you'll be sitting with them. It was true then and it is true now. You do not re-sign Dawkins just because he is beloved and because his departure would make people furious -- and it has and it will.
At the same time, there has to be a recognition of the fact that, while Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb are the faces of the franchise, Dawkins has been the heart. It has to be a tiebreaker, if nothing else. No one knows what the Eagles offered but you have to assume they did make an offer -- based upon Reid's stated optimism at re-signing Dawkins, if nothing else. And if they did make an offer, it means they did want him. The fact that Dawkins went to Denver means that the Eagles wanted him, but only on their terms. That just isn't good enough, not for a franchise with so much money it cannot possibly spend it.
Even if Dawkins' only function was to buy you a little more time and seasoning for Quintin Demps, it would have been worth the cash.
Right before the start of the playoffs in January, I wrote this about Eagles fans and their relationship with this special player:
"...When they look at Brian Dawkins, what they see is themselves.
"Thirteen years. It is a long time to be carrying a municipal legacy onto the field every week. It is forever, in many ways - and Dawkins will be a forever kind of player for this franchise, cherished, remembered, all of that, long after the No. 20 is put away.
"Part of it is because he has been so good, a seven-time Pro Bowler, the best safety in the history of the franchise. Part of it is because of how hard he hits people, how he just pulverizes them, even now. Long after the details are forgotten, the visceral remains. You wince when Dawkins really launches himself at somebody. That is what people will always remember - the wince, and then the wow.
"But it is more than that - and, no, not that ridiculous, indescribable routine he goes through when he emerges from the tunnel and goes onto the field. It is simpler than that. It is visible passion, visible to all.
"No Eagles fan can possibly doubt that Dawkins cares more than they do. That's it. That is the connection between a man and a city. That is the bond."
And while I understand that it's a business, a cold business, there always was the hope that it would be different with this team and this guy.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that they are going to be a lot worse on the field without Brian Dawkins. But the Eagles are going to be lesser.