The easiest column to write today is the one that says the Eagles are heartless skinflints with no appreciation for the 13 years of emotional devotion Brian Dawkins gave to the organization.

It would take about half an hour to write, and that's counting a sandwich break.

There would be images of Dawkins risking his neck - and usually the other guy's - with a flying Superman tackle. Of Dawkins emerging from the smoke-filled tunnel on all fours like the primal superhero he was for nearly all of his career here. And of Dawkins crying on the field after the second-round playoff win over the Giants just six weeks ago, a warrior who cared more deeply, so the column would say, than the suits for whom he expended every ounce of his being.

Be a heck of a column.

But that is merely the cartoon version of what happened in the last few days. What actually happened is that the Eagles gave the 35-year-old free-agent safety a rough idea of the contract they would offer. He went out and solicited a better offer - a much better offer - and he took it.

Brian Dawkins won't be ending his career as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles because that is the decision he made. If you want to castigate the Eagles for making a business decision, that's fine, but remember that Dawkins made one, too.

It will be a popular argument that the Eagles forced Dawkins out of town with a low-ball offer, one that was insulting for a seven-time Pro Bowl player. More accurately, Denver gave Dawkins a contract offer that, if he plays only one season, will make him among the highest-paid safeties in the NFL for that season.

According to a source familiar with the new five-year contract, it is essentially a two-year deal for a total of $9.5 million, with $7.5 million of that guaranteed. If he lasts just one year, he would still get the $7.5 million. That is $1.2 million above the 2009 franchise tag for safeties. It's an incredible deal.

Fans will be upset that the Eagles were not willing to pay Dawkins similarly, for all that he has done in the past. That part is true, but it also isn't how the Eagles work. They believe in paying for what players can do in the future, and neither Brian Dawkins nor anyone else is going to be paid for a pass he intercepted or a tackle he made in 2002. It didn't work that way for Troy Vincent or Hugh Douglas, and it wasn't going to work that way for Dawkins.

Is that a cold-eyed way to look at the world? Sure, but that's the game. It is no less cold-eyed when a player like Asante Samuel leaves the team that nurtured him and made him a champion to grab a big payday somewhere else.

That's not the situation Dawkins was in. He didn't get a monster contract, but he had the opportunity for a better deal for himself and his family and he took it. If it wasn't a better deal for the emotions of Eagles fans, well, that's the way it goes.

Even the most ardent supporter of Dawkins has to admit that he is no longer a dominant player. He made the Pro Bowl this year on reputation, not on a repetition of his greatest seasons. He is no longer able to cover the whole field from the free safety position. By the end of the season, he had been converted to a mini-linebacker in the pass-situation coverages, with Quintin Mikell and Quintin Demps roaming center field.

In effect, Dawkins was going to be a situational player if he remained. He would have been on the field for the first defensive play of every game, giving him titular "starter" status, and that would have been the right thing to do. Getting him off the field in certain situations would have also been the right thing, and that's just the reality of it.

The Eagles have a lot of money to spend under the projected salary cap at the moment. Some of that is because they pushed forward money from last season's cap, and some of it is because they are undeniably unwilling to part with cash for the sake of emotion.

They did part with a chunk of it to land offensive lineman Stacy Andrews, brother of right guard Shawn Andrews, and it's still a long way to the first week in September. That long road could include any combination of additional free-agent signings, trades, surprise draft picks, whatever the front office feels it might take to restore a roster that was inconsistent for much of last season. Getting it right this time would be nice.

But giving Dawkins a Lifetime Achievement Contract was not on the to-do list, and, if you've paid attention for the last 10 years, that's no surprise. The Eagles made their decision. Dawkins made his.

He might have been a signature player in Philadelphia for 13 years, but yesterday he chose to put that signature on a piece of paper in Denver.

Bob Ford: INSIDE

Fans decry loss of team's "heart." A10.

Lito Shep- pard traded for draft picks. E1.

Andrews boys could form brotherly line. E1.


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