Defensive lineman Darnell Dockett's tenure in Arizona is over, after he signed with the San Francisco 49ers.
It's official – Darnell Dockett isn't coming back to the Cardinals.
The defensive end, released last week by the team to see if he could find a better contract offer than the one the Cards had submitted, found the deal he sought by signing a two-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers Thursday.
Dockett, who missed the entire 2014 season after tearing his ACL, gets a contract worth up to $7.5 million. That includes $4 million in 2015, with $2 million guaranteed. The Arizona Republic had reported the Cards' offer was worth up to $4 million, with $2.5 million as a base.
During an interview with "The Drive" on XTRA 910, Dockett said he gave the Cardinals "two or three" chances to keep him and said he was willing to take less than what the 49ers offered.
"When we couldn't come to an agreement with that little bit of change to the contract, I knew then it was my time to go," Dockett said.
Dockett originally had been set to make $6.5 million in salary and had a salary cap number of almost $10 million, which is why the Cardinals had been looking to lower his contract. The two sides couldn't come to an agreement, so the Cards cut him so both he and the team could explore options. Dockett's release did create nearly $7 million of salary cap space.
Dockett said the two sides came within $500,000 but never could close the gap. During a near 20-minute interview, the clearly frustrated Dockett acknowledged the turn of events and leaving the team was unexpected.
"I was very shocked because I've always been a team player, I've always been loyal," Dockett said.
The Cardinals began preparing for the future on the defensive line last season, drafting both Ed Stinson and Kareem Martin. Stinson, a fifth-round pick, played well before getting hurt late in the season and even Dockett had said on a couple of occasions Stinson reminded Dockett of him in his younger days.
Dockett, who will be 34 in May, had only missed two games in 10 previous seasons with the Cardinals before losing all of 2014. In his career, the one-time third-round pick has made three Pro Bowls, the most recent after the 2010 season.
He goes to a 49ers team in flux after Jim Harbaugh's dismissal and the arrival of new coach Jim Tomsula. Dockett's role would seem to hinge at least partially on the decision of whether Justin Smith decides to return to play this season or retire.
"The biggest thing, I get to play Arizona twice a year, so you know what time it is," Dockett said.
Asked what it will be like to play as a visitor at University of Phoenix Stadium, Dockett said "it's all business. Coming to win."
Quarterback Carson Palmer, who has been rehabbing alongside Dockett since both had ACL tears, said he has traded texts with Dockett although there hasn't been much Cardinals-49ers discussion yet.
"We'll talk trash later," Palmer said. "It's too early for talking trash."
Palmer acknowledged Dockett will be "fired up" to play the Cardinals, and now the team has to find a way to make up for the loss of Dockett. That may come right away, Palmer said, and it might take a season. The offense might need to aid in that transition.
"I enjoy that part of it, that challenge," Palmer said. "That's what we were saying last year, there was all that talk of losing Karlos Dansby and what are going to do, and we were pretty good on defense last year and we expect to be pretty good on defense this year. But I kind of like going into a season thinking, 'Alright, we might have to score 35, might have to score 'x' to beat these teams.' It's a great way to go into an offseason because it puts a lot of pressure on you."
Defensive line was already a spot in which General Manager Steve Keim needed to do some work. Tommy Kelly and Dan Williams are both scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, and Williams is expected to draw major interest on the free-agent market. Alameda Ta'amu is also scheduled to become a restricted free agent.
Last season, the Cardinals used a combination of Martin, Stinson, Frostee Rucker and Josh Mauro in place of Dockett. Pro Bowler Calais Campbell mans the other defensive end spot.
Dockett is no longer part of the equation.
"I hope the fans that really do love me show me love and man, at the end of the day, if you don't, that's cool," Dockett said. "I don't live my life to make people happy. Just respect what I do at the end of the day."
The Cardinals' Tempe home is in the middle of upgrades for 2015