Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett(notes) makes no secret of two things: He likes to play at the edge of restraint, and he wants very much to get PAID. Dockett has racked up fines and a well-deserved reputation for a style just this side of the rulebook at times, but he's also very good at what he does. Through 11 games in 2009, Dockett has seven sacks, an impressive number for a guy who plays mostly at the three-tech tackle position, though defensive coordinator Bill Davis will use him as an end in certain "jumbo" line packages with two larger nose-sized tackles in the game. Dockett has six of those sacks in his last four games, including three against Vince Young(notes) last Sunday. He's as disruptive an interior defender as there is in the game, but he goes under the radar for the most part -- even his three sacks in Super Bowl XLIII, which tied Reggie White's single-game record, isn't much-discussed.
Selected with the first pick in the third round of the 2004 draft out of Florida State, Dockett signed a five-year, $22 million extension in 2006. Now, he says that he wants to be paid in a fashion commensurate with his current abilities, citing the recent mega-deal given to Albert Hayesworth of the Redskins. Of course, anyone comparing the methods of the tight-fisted Cards and free-spending Redskins is in for a severe reality check, and Dockett seems to get it.
"Honestly, I don't think they'll pay me," he recently told AZCentral.com. "It's one thing to say there's a light at the end of the tunnel, but how many guys have been here who never reach that light? Look at Antonio Smith, Calvin Pace(notes), Thomas Jones(notes), Simeon Rice(notes). Look at Anquan (Boldin). Do you think going into his last season that he'll be interested in signing a contract at that time? You think I'll be anxious to sign a contract at that time?"
Dockett is under contract through 2011, and it doesn't matter how much he threatens to sign with an NFC West opponent down the road -- Arizona has his rights. He'll make base salaries of $3.5 million, $3.75 million, and $4 million over the final three years of the deal -- as well as he's playing, Dockett has a point. What he doesn't have is a front office with a history of paying the team's best players in line with their true value.
When the Cards face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football, Dockett has the best chance he's had since the Super Bowl to make a national statement about his talent. He'll be going up against a Vikings line in perfect sync with dual weapons Brett Favre(notes) and Adrian Peterson as part of what may be the most complete team in football. For inspiration, Dockett can watch Jared Allen(notes) and the Williams Wall beat the living daylights out of Arizona's offense, as Minnesota's front four brings a side-to-side domination that the Cardinals just can't match.