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Monday, April 29, 2002
Eagles still searching for Buckhalter replacement

By Len Pasquarelli

Despite passing a physical examination and swapping old war stories with coach Andy Reid from their days together in Green Bay, free-agent tailback Dorsey Levens left Philadelphia on Monday without a contract offer.

Dorsey Levens

And without a hint of how he might fit into an Eagles tailback corps thinned by the season-ending knee injury that second-year pro Correll Buckhalter sustained in a minicamp practice last week.

"It never got down to anything serious, in terms of me signing here, or anything like that," said Levens, an eight-year veteran who has spent his entire career with the Packers. "We talked about what they wanted if they bring somebody in, about the offense, really casual stuff. So we'll see where it goes from here."

Where the Eagles' search for a replacement to Buckhalter goes next is in the direction of Ki-Jana Carter, an unrestricted free agent who was with the Washington Redskins in 2001. The first overall selection in the 1995 draft, Carter will visit Eagles officials later this week.

Philadelphia has demonstrated no sense of urgency yet in trying to find a No. 2 tailback to serve behind starter Duce Staley and the team might well take its time before deciding on one. The Eagles have more than $9 million in cap room and might wait until after June 1, when other clubs release a few veterans for salary reasons, to assess the candidates.

To this point, Reid hasn't even conceded he will need to sign a veteran tailback, although the Eagles almost certainly will add one before camp begins in July. There are a number of experienced tailbacks remaining in the unrestricted pool and the auditions may not end with just Levens and Carter. A team official allowed Monday night that the Eagles aren't certain yet how they will replace Buckhalter.

One unrestricted free agent not expected to be considered by the Eagles is Ricky Watters.

Given his familiarity with Reid and the West Coast-style offense that the Eagles utilize, Levens would seem a good fit. But he turns 32 next month and his recent injury history could be a deterrent.

Philadelphia currently has three tailbacks besides Staley: return man and 13-year veteran Brian Mitchell, former XFL star Rod Smart and 2002 third-round draft choice Brian Westbrook. Reid publicly spoke of his confidence in those players last week, when the injury to Buckhalter was confirmed as a torn anterior cruciate ligament, but the likelihood of one of them stepping into the backup spot is slim.

Levens has garnered interest from other teams as well, and the Packers would like to re-sign him, but he acknowledged he is impressed with the Eagles and their status as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

"I'm willing to be as role player at this point in my career," Levens said. "And I would prefer it be with a team that really has a chance to do something special. I'm very interested in Philadelphia but it's not my call on that decision. I'll just be patient and see what happens."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for