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Departure of Dawkins won't be Devastating

By Chase Lax

Take a deep breath Eagles fans. Put away those Joe Banner voodoo dolls and dartboards you bring out every off-season. If there’s one thing Jeffrey Lurie and company excel at, it’s that they know when to say goodbye to their beloved veterans. Remember the last time one of our aging leaders and defensive stalwarts signed a five-year deal with another team? Think back to 2003, shortly after the NFC championship debacle against the Buccaneers. Already irate Eagles fans cringed when they heard Hugh Douglas, a perennial pro bowl pass rusher, had agreed to a five-year twenty seven million dollar deal with the Jaguars. Despite predictions of doom and sports radio threats at Joe Banner’s life, the Eagles prospered without the iconic DE, and found themselves back in the NFC championship the following year. How did Douglas do in Jacksonville? He had his worst season as an NFL player while crippling the Jaguars financially. Not convinced? The year prior in 2002 the Eagles lost another one of their defensive captains, the “axe man” Jeremiah Trotter, to free agency. The Birds spent the next two years in the all too familiar NFC Championship game while Jeremiah floundered in mediocrity. The pattern is undeniable and almost scary. Sean Barber, Bobby Taylor, and Troy Vincent, all defensive veterans, fled the nest and saw their production decline dramatically with their new teams. The front office has the ability to recognize exactly when players will begin to lose a step, and one can be confident in their ability to predict Dawkins’ future production (or lack thereof).

Not only do the Eagles save themselves millions by cutting ties with their elderly stars, but they also provide young (cheaper) players with a chance to shine. The loss of Douglas saw the emergence of Derrick Burgess. Taylor and Vincent gave way to Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown. These inexperienced players stepped in to starting roles admirably, and the team did not suffer any loss of leadership. Some might claim that the only reason the Eagles have been able to withstand such significant personnel losses, is because of the steadying influence of Brian Dawkins. While this may be true, the Eagles obviously believe that due to his declining skills, Dawkins will no longer be seeing such significant action on the field. This reduction in playing time would clearly cut into his ability to lead the team. Dawkins’ insane and fanatical style was effective because he was in the middle of the battle with his troops. If B-Dawk was to become a rotational player who spends most of his time on the sidelines, his greatest asset would be rendered useless.

So please, stop calling for Joe Banner’s head. After all, the only reason the Eagles are forty million dollars under the cap is because of Banner’s skillful handling of the budget in years past and his disciplined stance on old veterans like Dawkins. There is no denying that Weapon-X’s enthusiasm will be missed. If history tells us anything though, the Eagles will soar again next year with a fresh, young free-safety. The same cannot be said for Dawkins and the Broncos.

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