Broncos sign Brian Dawkins

February 28, 2009 9:30:08 PM PST
Seven-time Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins had a hard time not looking back Saturday after signing with the Denver Broncos following a 13-year run with the Philadelphia Eagles. RELATED: SLIDES: Dawkins as an Eagle

RELATED: InterAction - Your reaction to this big change.

So raw were his emotions over leaving Philly that he only wanted to talk about Denver, yet it was obvious from his puffy eyes that he'd spent plenty of time and emotions pondering about what he had left behind.

To the Eagles' fans who relished his hard hits and big plays while he helped lead the team to five NFC championship games and a Super Bowl, Dawkins couldn't bring himself to say farewell.

"I'll have a time to really sit down and have a conversation with them, but they know it. I've absolutely enjoyed my time there, and this was a very, very, very emotional decision for me. Very emotional. I've been crying," Dawkins told The Associated Press on Saturday after signing what is essentially a two-year, $9 million deal. "I believe they know how I feel about them because I feel the same way about them."

Dawkins acknowledged his sadness was sparring with his joy. "It's a day that kind of goes both ways," he said. "I don't really want to get into that too much. I'll handle that down the road in talking about the Philadelphia Eagles. Right now, I want to celebrate this."

Dawkins, who turns 36 next season, said he felt blessed to be going from one storied franchise to another.

"You can feel it. You can absolutely feel it," Dawkins said. "When I walk through the halls, you see the guys who have gone before us to Super Bowls and I see T.D. (Terrell Davis) on the wall. It makes me want to get back there. It makes me want to get back there in a hurry."

Although Dawkins is clearly on the downside of his career, he brings a hard-hitting style and leadership qualities coveted by new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, who was the New England Patriots offensive coordinator before replacing Mike Shanahan.

Dawkins said McDaniels told him he envisions his new savvy safety playing a role similar to what Rodney Harrison did in New England.

Dawkins said McDaniels, 32, was a terrific recruiter.

"Very bright, very enthusiastic of what the vision is for this team: not winning later, not building anything, but starting and winning right away," Dawkins said. "I bought into it. I drunk the orange Kool-Aid."

The Broncos also signed former Indianapolis Colts special teams standout Darrell Reid to a three-year, $6.8 million contract, agent Blake Baratz said.

McDaniels, who has signed a bevy of other free agents, including Miami safety Renaldo Hill, targeted Dawkins as the big fish in his first free agent class.

"He's exactly what the Denver Broncos are looking for," McDaniels said.

The Eagles praised Dawkins and thanked him for all he gave the organization.

"Brian Dawkins has been one of the pillars of this franchise for 13 years," Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie said. "Brian embodies everything you look for in a professional athlete and human being. I have been fortunate to witness his impeccable character, his passion for the game of football and his commitment to being the best player he could be.

"I look forward to continuing a close relationship with him once his playing days are over. His legacy as an Eagle will last forever and will ultimately land him in Canton as a Hall of Famer."

Although Dawkins has had just two interceptions in his last 32 games, his passionate play helped the Eagles salvage a teetering season last year and reach the conference title game for the fifth time in eight seasons.

"Brian is one of the best players in franchise history and one of the most popular players to ever play in the city of Philadelphia," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "... He gave this city 13 years of emotional, energetic football. We wish Brian and his family nothing but the best as he continues his career in Denver."

Dawkins said his big move dawned on him when he arrived at Dove Valley Saturday morning to put his signature on a five-year, $17 million contract and saw his bright orange jersey on the table. "I've worn the green so long that a lot of people didn't know how I was going to react to this orange," Dawkins said. "Well, I went to Clemson, so I've worn this orange with pride already."

Dawkins figures he has at least a couple more good seasons in him. He started all 16 games last season for the third time in four years and had 75 tackles, three sacks, six forced fumbles and an interception.

The Broncos, who gave up 448 points last season while ranking at or near the bottom in every major defensive category, ran through six free safeties after signing Marlon McCree and Marquand Manuel last offseason.

McCree was allowed to become a free agent and Manuel was jettisoned along with four other defensive starters in a massive spring cleaning that freed up $37 million in cap space.

In addition to bringing in the two veteran safeties, McDaniels has tapped the New England pipeline, luring wide receiver Jabar Gaffney and long-snapper Lonie Paxton from the Patriots. Hill and Gaffney both signed four-year deals worth $10 million with $3 million in guarantees, their agent, Drew Rosenhaus confirmed Saturday.

Reid, 26, has started just twice at defensive tackle in his four seasons in Indy, but emerged as an elite special teamer, leading the Colts in special teams tackles with 18 last season.

The Broncos hope the versatile unrestricted free agent can fill many needs in Denver. His contract contains incentives that could push the value to $9.6 million based on playing time and sacks, Baratz said.

"I really don't know what their plan is, but I know he's in a unique role in that he can play multiple positions and is a jack of all trades," Baratz told The Associated Press.

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AP Sports Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report from Philadelphia.

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