SANTA CLARA, Calif. - There's little doubt the 49ers entered the offseason needing a veteran presence on the defensive line with the departure of Ray McDonald and the uncertain future of Justin Smith.
So before the new league year started, San Francisco landed former Cardinals three-time Pro Bowler Darnell Docket, who is coming off an ACL tear that forced him out of action for all of 2014.
Before the injury, Dockett was a model of durability, missing just two regular season games since getting drafted in 2004 out of Florida State. Arizona released Dockett, 33, saving $6.8 million in cap space in February. He signed a reported two-year, $7.5 million deal with $2 million in guarantees from the 49ers.
We reached out to Brad Wilbricht, who presides over Cardinal Football Talk for the Scout Network, to get some more insight about the 49ers' new unreserved defensive lineman.
Niners Digest: Brad, Dockett’s been known for his outgoing personality both in the locker room and on social media. I know back in 2010 Dockett and tight end Vernon Davis got into a pretty heated discussion on Twitter, but Davis has since welcomed him to the team. How do you see his personality fitting in a new locker room? Is he someone likely to be embraced by his new teammates for his brash behavior or did you get the feeling that some in the Cardinals building got tired of his act?
Wilbricht: Dockett will certainly always have an outgoing personality but I wouldn't be surprised to see it toned down a bit in San Francisco.
Dockett isn't quite the dominating player that he once was in Arizona and sometimes his antics were only tolerated due to his many talents. I'd expect him to be a little more tame with the 49ers.
As for the locker room, he was always well respected in Arizona and I would expect that to continue in San Francisco. Dockett's not always forthcoming with the media but he'll always have the back of him teammates, no matter what.
ND: Dockett’s always been someone to play with a chip on his shoulder while being one of the most durable defensive linemen in football in his 10 seasons before tearing his ACL. Based on what you know about him, how will the injury impact his comeback in 2015? Is it possible the motivation from the injury fuels a really productive season?
Wilbricht: Given that Dockett spent 11 seasons with the Cardinals before they released him, I would fully expect Dockett to have a chip on his shoulder - especially now that he's playing with a division rival.
I'd be slightly hesitant about his long-term health, however. Dockett proved to be extremely durable over his first 10 years in the NFL, but sometimes things can go downhill fast when injuries start to hit.
If a few nagging injuries creep up on him early in the season, it could be a long and painful 2015 campaign. He could also play a full 16-game schedule - only time will tell.
ND: Our friends at Pro Football Focus have Dockett as a highly productive pass rusher for a 3-4 defensive end, but his grades aren’t nearly as good as a run defender. Are those grades overstated? I know the Cardinals were elite against the run over the last two seasons. Should his run defense be a concern in 2015?
Wilbricht: While Dockett has historically been an active and disruptive defensive lineman, his strength clearly isn't stopping the run. I'm guessing that the 49ers didn't bring him into the fold for that quality and instead would rather see him wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
Dockett benefited greatly from playing alongside DT Dan Williams in recent years and a run-stopping nose tackle would really help his case. In that scenario, Dockett would have freedom to focus on his pass-rushing skills and do what he does best.
ND: What about Versatility? Did Dockett move around the line much or was he planted on one side of the defensive front? What were some of his best attributes when healthy?
Wilbricht: Dockett has played extensively in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes so he's certainly versatile. He moved around the defensive line more earlier in his career, playing multiple positions which led to mismatches in the trenches. I would guess that San Francisco utilizes Dockett in a similar fashion with hopes of isolating him against suspect offensive linemen.
ND: Given his high cap number, it made sense for the Cardinals to try and get him back at a cheaper rate. After the injury, was the writing on the wall there for the entire season? Or did his release come as a surprise given what he’s meant to the team over the last decade?
Wilbricht: I wouldn't say that the writing was on the wall or that it was a total surprise that Arizona and Dockett ended up parting ways.
I think both parties were interested in a a change of scenery and really believe that it could be beneficial for both sides. The Cardinals would have taken Dockett back but didn't want to overpay for him.
Meanwhile, Dockett has a lot of pride and obviously wasn't interested in providing Arizona with a home-town discount.
You can follow Brad Wilbricht on Twitter here.