The Arizona Cardinals had hoped to re-sign Darnell Dockett.
Though Dockett missed all of the 2014 season with a torn ACL and will turn 34 in May, the Cardinals still believe the defensive lineman has plenty of game left.
Apparently the 49ers do, too.
Dockett and his agent announced Thursday morning that Dockett has signed a two-year deal to play with the San Francisco 49ers. The longtime Cardinal immediately figures to be an impact player on the 49ers defense, either as a replacement for Ray McDonald on the left side of the team’s 3-4 defensive line, or on the right side should Justin Smith retire. With young defensive end Tank Carradine also expected to compete for playing time, the addition of Dockett gives the 49ers some depth and insurance.
Dockett – who’d been with the Cardinals 10 seasons – is expected to pick up where he left off with Arizona. Over 16 games in 2013, Dockett was in on 36 tackles and had 4½ sacks. He had 40½ sacks during his long stay in Arizona, with 349 tackles, nine forced fumbles, four interceptions and 18 batted-down passes.
The 6-foot-4, 293-pounder, a third-round pick out of Florida State in 2004, was a three-time Pro Bowl pick, in 2007, 2009 and 2010. He was one of the defensive standouts on the Cardinals' 2008 Super Bowl team.
Dockett is familiar with the 3-4 scheme, having played it in Arizona, so he should be able to step right into new defensive coordinator Eric Mangini’s defense.
Dockett tore his ACL during summer training camp practice in August. By September, he was already doing heavy rehab work, intent on coming back strong in 2015. At that time, he said he believed he could come back as good as ever.
“I’m just trying to cut the (rehab) time in half,” Dockett told a reporter at that time. “Adrian Peterson did it and came back and led the league in rushing. I just try and look at the whole situation. If there are ways I can cut corners by going four times a day (to rehab), I’ll do that. It doesn’t exactly come easy.”
The Cardinals released Dockett recently to save $6.8 million against the salary cap, but had hoped to bring him back at a lower price. General manager Steve Keim said he would make a strong pitch to keep him.
“With the energy he brings to the defense, he is the heart and soul of our team,” he told Fox Sports Arizona.
According to ESPN.com, the 49ers signed Dockett to a two-year deal worth $7.5 million, with $4 million for the first season.
It certainly seems, too, that the 49ers are getting a very motivated player.
Upon learning of his release by the Cardinals, Dockett tweeted: “No matter the logo I’m gonna win that comeback player of the year … ”