Hopeful to atone for their nightmarish finish to the 2012 season, the Arizona Cardinals will have to do without arguably their best defensive player for the first quarter of next year.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the NFL announced Wednesday that Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington has been suspended for the first four games of 2013 for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy:
Heading into his fourth NFL season, Washington is coming off a breakout 2012 campaign. He finished with 134 tackles and nine sacks, gaining a reputation as a fierce pass-rusher, especially among inside linebackers.
According to Pro Football Focus’ advanced measurements (subscription required), Washington was the fifth-most productive pass-rusher at his position last season. That ascent helped Washington to his first Pro Bowl selection and earned him second-team All-Pro honors.
Washington was one of the few bright spots in a frustrating season for Arizona. After starting the year 4-0, the Cardinals lost 11 of their last 12 games. The team then fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt and replaced him with Bruce Arians, who will hope to bring some magic over from the Indianapolis Colts.
That won’t be easy without Washington.
Inside linebacker was one of the few positions the Cardinals seemingly had filled, and now they may have to look for a stop-gap replacement. Jasper Brinkley was brought in during the offseason, but Arizona will need further help from Washington’s absence.
That could put Washington’s place with the franchise in a precarious position less than a year after he signed a four-year, $32 million deal.
While it’s all speculative, a recent restructuring of Washington’s contract could keep him out of hot water for now. Washington’s contract originally had a clause calling for a $10 million roster bonus due by the end of the 2013 league year.
However, perhaps motivated by an impending suspension, the two sides agreed to push back that bonus until 2014, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Brian McIntyre. That will essentially keep Washington’s 2013 season from being a 12-game audition.
Despite the two sides’ amenable agreement with the bonus, the Cardinals cannot be happy about this development. Washington will be under a microscope once he comes back from suspension—not just from the organization, but from the fans as well.