MIAMI -- The Pro Bowl experience might have been bittersweet for a couple of elite defensive linemen.
The Patriots' Vince Wilfork and the Cardinals' Darnell Dockett both want new deals. Wilfork has been outspoken recently. Dockett has spoken out in the past, but he generally kept a lower profile on the matter during the 2009 season.
I caught up with Dockett after the Pro Bowl and came away convinced he'll set his sights on leaving in free agency if the Cardinals let him reach the final year of his deal -- 2011 -- without an extension.
"They have to be fair to me," Dockett said.
Pro Bowls feature some of the NFL's highest-paid stars. While Wilfork and Dockett are earning millions, they're not making close to what many of their Pro Bowl peers are commanding, and that frustrates them.
Another Cardinals player, Antrel Rolle, should know his fate after March 1. The Cardinals owe him a $4 million bonus if Rolle is on the roster past that date.
If Arizona were to pay the bonus, Rolle would remain under contract with an $8.1 million salary and nearly $13.7 million salary-cap figure (if there is a salary cap, which seems unlikely). If the Cardinals were to pass on the bonus, they would in effect be terminating Rolle's contract. Rolle would then be subject to waivers, which he would likely clear. At that point, Rolle would be free to sign with any team -- circumventing restrictions on unrestricted free agency affecting other members of the 2005 draft class.
While unrestricted free agents with fewer than six years of experience revert to restricted free agents in an uncapped year, players clearing waivers become free to sign with any team because they do not qualify as UFAs. Rolle would fall into that second camp if the Cardinals decided against paying the bonus.
"Something has to be done by March 1 or else I become a free agent," Rolle said Sunday night. "Everything is going to take care of itself. It has to."