(Image via Jeffrey Beall)
It seems all anybody wanted for Christmas this year was Brian Dawkins. Maybe that was partially a matter of timing with the Broncos in town this weekend. Regardless, I got the impression from talking to friends and family that the Eagles still need number 20.
Would they be better off with Dawkins? It's foolish to say they wouldn't. Whether it's Macho Harris, Quintin Demps, or Sean Jones, meaningful production from the free safety spot has been lacking. You know that would not be the case if Dawkins were here. In the last five seasons, he compiled 12.5 sacks, 14 interceptions, and 17 forced fumbles. He had a knack for making the big play.
The Eagles would certainly benefit from having another quality tackler in the mix as well. It's been a serious problem all season long, practically an epidemic for that matter. I can't remember Dawkins whiffing on as many tackles in his entire career as Asante Samuel has this season alone. He made the other guys accountable too. You know Dawkins would be in their faces, forcing the other 10 to raise their games.
But as a whole, would this unit honestly look much more solid? It's Week 16, and they're still trying to assemble a decent trio of linebackers. There isn't another consistent pass rusher to take the pressure off Trent Cole, and the secondary has battled a number of injuries. With all the changes from one week to the next, it's limited the defense's ability to even run the kind of schemes that gave Dawkins the freedom to wreak havoc in the first place.
To put it in terms we can attempt to quantify: would he have been the difference in getting the defense off the field late in the fourth quarter against Dallas or San Diego? Was there any chance they could have stopped New Orleans from scoring touchdown after touchdown from good starting field position?
Safety isn't this team's problem.
Had the front office caved to his demands, whatever those actually were, would they still been able to have as successful a year for player acquisitions? After the recent round of signings, the Eagles are right up against the cap. With a Dawkins figure comparable to what Denver paid him, do they feel rich enough to splurge on do-it-all fullback Leonard Weaver? Can they afford to take on Will Witherspoon's contract and stabilize their linebackers? Are we talking about how Winston Justice can depart in free agency instead of having the tackle position locked up the next few seasons?
As so many decisions are in professional sports, at the end of the day it was all about money, and not just Jeff Lurie's money either. Brian Dawkins didn't refuse Denver's big payday, including the rather large signing bonus and all those option years at the back end of the deal. Nobody blames him, it just proves that even the players who bleed green are mercenaries. Before the Eagles could even present a serious counter offer, he was on a plane heading west.
It's business. The Eagles placed a value on Dawkins, and somebody else thought he was worth way more. After having the privilege of watching him play for 13 years, it's not hard to understand why. That doesn't mean he was worth that amount here though. Everybody wants a guy like that on their team, but what it comes down to is the difference between winning and losing. Can you win without this one player as opposed to the sum of the parts you are able to add in his place?
I sure miss Brian Dawkins, but 10 months later, I still don't fault the Eagles for conducting business as usual.