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Friday, July 12
Levens expected to sign one-year contract

By Len Pasquarelli

The Philadelphia Eagles gained experience and security in the backfield on Friday, with ESPN.com learning that the team has reached a contract agreement with unrestricted free agent tailback Dorsey Levens, an eight-year veteran who had previously played his entire career with the Green Bay Packers.

League sources confirmed that Levens, 32, will sign a one-year contract. Details of the contract were not immediately available but the deal is believed to include an incentives package that would reward Levens for reaching certain performance benchmarks.

"I was excited to get the deal done," Levens said. "The Eagles are certainly a Super Bowl contender and that was very important to me. I want to help them win a championship."

Levens likely will serve as the top backup to starter Duce Staley. The Eagles have been without an experienced backup since second-year veteran Correll Buckhalter, who might have competed for the starting job in training camp, sustained a season-ending knee injury in a mini-camp earlier this spring.

Third-round draft choice Brian Westbrook of Villanova and free agent journeyman Rod Smart -- better known as "He Hate Me" from the ill-fated XFL -- spent the spring as the backups to Staley.

"I still have a lot of gas left in the tank," Levens said. "I know that offense really well and feel that I can fit in nicely with the group of running backs the Eagles have."

About two months ago Levens met with Eagles coach Andy Reid, with whom he worked in Green Bay, and underwent a physical exam. The Eagles did not make a contract offer to Levens at the time and instead considered all their options.

But negotiations heated up on Tuesday, when agent Hadley Engelhard spoke with team president Joe Banner and personnel director Tom Heckert, and the two sides spent the past few days bridging the gap in their respective bargaining postures. The main sticking point was over the incentives package.

The transition to the Eagles offense should be a seamless one for Levens, who played in a similar design with the Packers, and who already understands much of the terminology.

"I know what he can do," Reid said. "He knows this offense very well. He can run and is also a good pass-catcher. We want to bring him in and create some added depth at the running back position."

A former Georgia Tech standout, Levens was selected by the Packers in the fifth round of the 1994 draft. During his eight seasons in Green Bay, he appeared in 102 games and was a starter in 53 of them. Because of injuries, however, Levens started just 24 contests over the past four seasons, 14 of those in 1999.

Levens twice rushed for over 1,000 yards -- a career-best 1,435 yards in 1997, when he was chosen for the Pro Bowl, and 1,034 yards in 1999 -- in his Green Bay tenure. In the last two seasons, he was relegated to backup status as Packers tailback Ahman Green emerged as one of the NFL's brightest young runners. Levens played in 15 games in 2001 but started only one, rushing for 165 yards on 44 carries.

For his career, Levens has 3,937 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns on 1,006 carries. He also has 271 receptions for 2,079 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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