The last time Darnell Dockett appeared in a game for the Cardinals, he was carted off the field during a preseason contest after suffering a torn ACL, an injury that wiped out his entire 2014 season. As it turns out, that may be the last time Dockett takes the field in a Cardinals uniform. According to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com (via Twitter), the team released Dockett today. The move was first reported by Dianna Marie Russini of NBC 4 in Washington (via Twitter).
While Dockett will immediately hit the open market and can look for work elsewhere, the Cardinals haven’t closed the door on a potential reunion, notes Urban. The veteran defensive lineman will have a chance to gauge his value around the NFL before the free agent period officially begins, and general manager Steve Keim is very open to bringing Dockett back, tweets Albert Breer of the NFL Network.
“We have been very clear about our feelings for Darnell and our desire to have him back,” Keim said.
Dockett, who has been with the Cardinals since the 2004 season, earning three Pro Bowl nods during that stretch, was scheduled to count for $9.8MM against the team’s cap in 2015. By cutting him, Arizona will create $6.8MM in cap savings, with $3MM dead money left on the deal.
While a defensive lineman entering his age-34 season and coming off an ACL tear may not generate huge interest on the open market, I imagine plenty of teams will kick the tires on Dockett, who can still be effective and productive when he’s healthy. In 2013, the former third-round pick started all 16 games for the Cards, logging 46 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
With Dockett out of action in 2014, the Cardinals primarily relied on Tommy Kelly to fill his shoes, and the former Raider did an excellent job, recording a positive grade against both the pass and the run in 726 defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). However, Kelly is eligible for free agency next month as well, so if Dockett doesn’t return to Arizona, the team could either lean on Frostee Rucker to take on a larger role, or pursue a replacement in free agency or the draft.
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