The end seemed inevitable for Brian Dawkins with father time slowly descending, his contract in Denver expired, and after a pinched nerve in his neck forced him to miss the Broncos’ last two regular-season games and the playoffs.

Now it’s official, and the six-time All Pro and nine-time Pro Bowler has announced his retirement through a statement posted on Twitter, and a brief interview with the Denver Post.

Even at his advanced age (he’s 38) Dawkins was still playing at an elite level this past season prior to his injury, and he was a key component of a veteran secondary alongside Champ Bailey. He had three sacks in 2011 and five over the past two years while finishing his career with 26. A versatile and athletic safety, Dawkins was effective while dropping back in pass protection, and when he came up to the line to defend against the run. He forced 36 fumbles and had 179 pass defenses along with 1,169 tackles over his 16-year career.

Known more for his time in Philadelphia where he spent 13 years after being a second-round pick in 1996, Dawkins will receive serious Hall of Fame consideration when he’s eligible in five years. Pro Football Reference lists several Hall of Fame defensive backs whose stats and longevity compare favorably to Dawkins (Larry Wilson, Roger Wehril, Jimmy Johnson), along with a handful of others who played at an elite level, but are still waiting their turn.

He’ll be given the proverbial one-day contract treatment by the Eagles, and will reportedly be honored in Philadelphia during a pre-game ceremony sometime during the 2012 season. It’s still unknown whether or not the Eagles will retire Dawkins’ number, but that’s the next logical step for the franchise’s best safety.

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