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Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Darnell Dockett's deal sends clear message

By Mike Sando

The Arizona Cardinals said they would take care of Darnell Dockett.

They held up their end, extending Dockett's deal through 2015 -- a move the team announced during a news conference that is ongoing Wednesday afternoon.

This move, coupled with the 2009 deal for Pro Bowl strong safety Adrian Wilson, affirms that the Cardinals can be proactive in re-signing their best players. A few other potential cornerstone types have gotten away over the years. Keeping Wilson was critical. Keeping Dockett was critical.

"This is a great thing for us," Whisenhunt said.

It's been a tumultuous offseason for the Cardinals, never more so than this week. Quarterback Matt Leinart's future with the team remains in doubt. With trade rumors swirling, the Cardinals showed they'll reward players who show they are deserving.

The team parted with Antrel Rolle, Kurt Warner, Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle this offseason. Re-signing Wilson last offseason and now Dockett adds stability and credibility to the Cardinals -- qualities that have marked Whisenhunt's tenure despite a few setbacks. Dockett has proven over the past two seasons that he'll work hard, play at an elite level and set a standard for other players. The standard he has set -- and the very public manner in which he set it -- assures the Cardinals that Dockett isn't suddenly going to become a slacker.

"The thing that has really made it so apparent that we wanted to get this done was his growth as a player and as a person," Whisenhunt said.

General manager Rod Graves pointed directly to Wilson's low-keyed approach to getting a new deal. Wilson stopped complaining about his contract, continued playing at an elite level and trusted the organization -- Whisenhunt, specifically -- that a deal would get done. Dockett has insisted he is his own man, but the Wilson precedent had to help.

Cardinals players now know they can trust Whisenhunt as long as they hold up their end. Dockett, though vocal and plenty accessible through Twitter, doesn't call out Whisenhunt or takes private concerns public. There's no need to show up the head coach or organization when both sides can trust one another. Leinart followed a different path when he publicly questioned Whisenhunt's motives for demoting him. Every player's situation is different and Leinart might have legitimate grievances, but showing up Whisenhunt in that fashion could very well buy him a ticket out of town.

As for Dockett?

"I think I have to take my game to a totally different level (now)," he said.

There's a scary thought for the rest of the NFC West.