Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in–90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we’ll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we’ll have more than one so it’s not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it’s worked so far. Who am I to argue?
The San Francisco 49ers defensive line is undergoing a significant transformation in 2015, and to help with that change, the team decided to bring in an old rival. A week after being cut by the Arizona Cardinals, Darnell Dockett signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract with the 49ers. The deal did not include a signing bonus, but did include $2 million in guaranteed 2015 base salary. In 2015, Dockett is due $3.25 million in base salary, $250,000 in roster bonuses and $500,000 in workout bonuses. He attended the 49ers offseason workout program, but spent his time rehabbing. I do not know how that impacts the workout bonus money.
Dockett is coming off a torn ACL, suffered last August. Prior to that injury, he had missed two games in his career, dating back to 2004. In speaking with the media, Dockett said he was confident he would be good to go when Week 1 rolls around. Odds seem decent that he could end up opening training camp on the PUP list, but he says he is ahead of schedule in his rehab. I don't imagine any player saying he would be behind schedule, but we will have to wait and see what August brings. Veterans report to camp on July 31 for physicals and initial meetings. We'll get a quick initial handle on things shortly after that.
Dockett's role with the 49ers is still to be determined, but it makes sense for him to get most of his work on passing downs. Dockett has generally been a better pass rusher than run defender, and that could open the door for a very significant role on the 49ers defensive line. I could see Glenn Dorsey and Quinton Dial starting at the two base defensive end positions. The 49ers could then bring on Dockett and Tank Carradine at the two interior defensive tackle positions when they switch to their nickel package.
David Neumann put together a film study in late March, and he came away with some similar thoughts, but also some different thoughts. He does see Dockett working in a rotational role, but he sees a decline in his pass rushing skills at this stage in his career. This is not entirely shocking, and we will see what the rest of the 49ers transitioning defensive line can bring alongside him in the pass rush.
Why he might improve in 2015
Dockett is coming off a torn ACL and just turned 34. While he obviously can improve on not playing in 2014, improvement compared to 2013 seems unlikely. However, in a more limited rotational role, it is possible he could make a significant impact on a per-play basis. He is not going to be accumulating any sort of gaudy stats, and he could do more opening space for others. The other reason we could see any kind of improvement is his desire to show the Cardinals they made a bad decision. Dockett is a big talker and seems to play with a chip on his shoulder. Getting released could give him a little bit extra drive this year.
Why he might regress in 2015
Just look back at the first line of the previous paragraph. Getting into your mid-30s and recovering from a torn ACL is not exactly a formula for success in the NFL. The 49ers are paying Dockett a decent amount, but ideally we see one or more of the younger defensive linemen push past him on the depth chart sooner rather than later.
Odds of making the roster
Considering he has $2 million in guaranteed money this year, I would be pretty surprised to see Dockett not make the roster. A setback in his ACL recovery could result in the PUP list, but I fully expect him to be on the roster in some form or fashion when Week 1 rolls around. I have seen some disagreement on this in the comments, but that guaranteed money seems like a sizable investment in him.