In their first major free agency splash of the offseason, the San Francisco 49ers added much-needed defensive line support by picking up veteran defensive tackle Darnell Dockett from the division rival Arizona Cardinals.
The signing, which was announced Thursday morning on Twitter by Dockett’s agent Drew Rosenhaus, is reportedly worth $7.5 million across two years, with just $2 million of the contract being guaranteed. Dockett was released by the Cardinals last week after being slated for a $6.55 million salary during the 2015 season.
The 33-year old Dockett has earned a fearsome reputation as a pass rusher during his 11-year career with Arizona, notching 40.5 career sacks and three Pro-Bowl selections during the span.
Even after missing all of last year with an ACL injury, Dockett’s presence will almost assuredly help a 49ers team who often struggled to get to opposing quarterbacks, ranking 21st in the league with just 36 sacks during the 2014 season.
The signing also alleviates some of the questions marks surrounding the 49ers young and depleted defensive line on contract for next season. With the reliable Justin Smith considering an end to his illustrious 14-year career, the 49ers are left with Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, Tank Carradine, Tony Jerod-Eddie and Quinton Dial.
Dockett’s addition to could be the first influential signing that newly appointed head coach Jim Tomsula has played a part in. Although it remains to be seen how Tomsula will fare during his inaugural season as head coach, his work with players on the defensive line has been admirable.
Since joining the team in 2007 as the defensive line coach, Tomsula’s group of players has ranked fourth in the league in rushing yards allowed per game and second in rushing average.
Such prestigious play, along with a talented core of young players, could have been a tipping point for the soon-to-be 34-year old Dockett who is coming off a significant injury.
Were Smith to return for his 15th season, the 49ers defensive line would be a formidable task for opposing offenses. A starting group of Smith, Dockett and either Dorsey or Williams at nose tackle, with Carradine, Dial and Jerod-Eddie in reserve would allow a fresh rotation of talent that would disrupt the oppositions game.
The signing also fills a hole come draft day. The 49ers can now focus their attention to looming holes on their rosters in the cornerback and wide receiver position, using their high draft picks to sign immediate playmakers in those positions.