Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett was upset and tweeted as such at the start of free agency, which presumably was about the news that linebacker Karlos Dansby was leaving the Cardinals for a four-year contract to play for the Cleveland Browns.
Dockett clearly is disappointed that Dansby left and he spoke about it to the media (via AZCardinals.com). You can tell he was upset on two levels -- one because of Dansby's worth on the field and in the locker room and another because of how it happened.
Dockett referred to the loss of Dansby as "one big loss" and mentioned how whoever replaces him on the field will have "big shoes to fill." It is a sentiment that many players have echoed. Dockett feels that the team "was one or two pieces from making some noise" and losing Dansby's production sets them back as a team.
In that sense, he is right. Dansby was the defense's best player and arguably the most important player. Losing him takes a playmaking dimension away from the unit. Without players in other positions making strides to improve, it is likely you will see a step back in some parts of the defense's play.
But Dockett also had strong words about how Dansby left.
"I personally feel he chased the money versus a ring. That's no knock on Cleveland, I'm not saying Cleveland doesn't have a chance. Everyone has a chance, but I just felt like it was made for him to be here. The financial part, that's totally different. I don't know anything about that. But when you look at everything we have done this year, the sacrifice our defensive line made for that certain individual to make his plays and going to a game not being selfish. Our defensive line doesn't care about sacks and tackles and stuff, we come to do a job to hold guys off linebackers so we can be the number one run defense. I just think that opportunity was here, to get into the playoffs and make a run for it.
"I'm not going to complain about spilled milk. I wish him well in Cleveland but at the end of the day we'll see who is where at the end of the season."
This is where things could get tricky. Before getting into that, it is important to note that Dockett appears to be a much different player/person in the last couple of seasons. For years, he was known as a very talented player who took plays off. Just two seasons ago, he complained about his role in Ray Horton's defense. He even refused to follow coaches' instructions to use a strategy that gave the team the best shot at coming back (when the team was down one point late in the game, the coaches wanted the defense to let the Jets score so the offense could at least get the ball to try and score, being down eight) and then allegedly spat in the face of a teammate.
Now, Dockett is the guy showing up to voluntary offseason workouts with the new strength and training coaches, and he is the guy trying to get everyone here, too. He is an unquestioned leader in the locker room.
However, Dockett might see a similar situation next offseason. What will he say if the Cardinals approach him and ask him to take a significant pay cut? He is due to make more than $6.5 million in 2015 and has a cap hit of nearly $10 million. What if the Cardinals cut him? His production has been well under his salary for a few seasons. What if he were approached for a pay cut -- not a restructure -- now? Would he take less money to stay, or would he "chase the money?"
Will he have the same attitude? He might, and good for him. At the same time, there is not a single thing wrong with what Dansby did. And I have said it before, while Dansby might have a tougher road to a Super Bowl. The Cardinals are still in the same division as the Seahawks and the 49ers. There is certainly no guarantee that the Cards will even make the playoffs.
Cleveland, although historically bad, has talent on both sides of the ball, the chance to pick up even more in the draft and -- perhaps the most important piece -- the AFC North is not the same division it was. It is winnable. The Steelers and Ravens are not title contenders. The Bengals are a prime candidate to take a step back. With the right decisions in the draft, it is not out of the question that the Browns can contend in their division.
Also, as noble as it is to say that you should chase a ring over chasing money -- money is definitely the more certain thing and a ring won't feed your kids. Money does.
Dansby's loss hurts. I agree. But we'll see if Dockett is singing the same song in a year from now.
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