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Monday, April 28
Updated: April 29, 12:53 PM ET
Dawkins signs contract extension

By Len Pasquarelli

Still flush with more salary cap room than all but two other NFL franchises, the Philadelphia Eagles put some of that money to good use Monday and signed free safety Brian Dawkins to a six-year contract extension.

Brian Dawkins

Talks between Eagles officials and the representatives for Dawkins had been under way since last fall and, while there was a definite start-and-stop nature to the negotiations, the consensus was a deal would eventually be struck.

The seven-year veteran was set to enter the final year of his existing contract in 2003 and had a base salary of $2.26 million. The base salary probably will be reduced to at or near the NFL minimum to accommodate a signing bonus.

The total deal is for seven-years (the one year he had remianing on his deal, plus the six years it was extended), $43 million if you include the incentives and escalators, but the biggest feature is the $8 million signing bonus. Dawkins can void the deal in four years. In new money, he will make $9.5 million over the next two seasons and $11.4 over the next three.

"I just know that both sides wanted to get this done," he told The Associated Press. "I know I really wanted to get it done and from conversations, especially now, you can really tell that we wanted to get it done because we were able to iron this thing out."

Re-upping the three-time Pro Bowl safety is indicative of how the Eagles like to deal with their core veterans, typically signing them to extensions well in advance of their contract termination. With over $12 million in cap space, Philadelphia is likely to extend the contracts of a few other players as well, and is already negotiating with the representatives for cornerback Troy Vincent and linebacker Carlos Emmons.

Dawkins, 29, is a key to the blitzing style of defense that coordinator Jim Johnson loves to play. One of the league's most versatile safeties, Dawkins has solid range, can move down "into the box" at times and is a very good pass rusher for a secondary player.

"If I am going to build a football team (from scratch), Dawkins is my free safety," Johnson said. "Brian can play free safety, strong safety and not miss a beat. He has the toughness to play strong and the cover ability as far as playing cornerback."

Said Vincent: "He can cover like a corner and hit like a linebacker and he almost never makes a mental mistake. He's the best in the business, period."

A second-round choice in the 1996 draft, the former Clemson standout has been a starter since his rookie campaign. His resume includes 675 tackles, 20 interceptions, 76 passes defensed and 10 sacks.

Dawkins has appeared in 103 games and started all but one of them.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. ESPN.com's John Clayton contributed to this report.

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