We all know Daryl Washington has had some legal troubles, but most expected the middle linebacker to come right back from his suspension and play like the Pro Bowler he is. However, that may not be the case.
Washington, who was accused of assault of his ex-girlfriend earlier this month, played behind Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby at middle linebacker on Tuesday, according to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com. Washington finished the season with nine sacks and 134 tackles, and he earned a well-deserved Pro Bowl selection.
However, his future with the Cardinals is up in the air after a four-game drug suspension (one that could be extended if Washington is proven guilty). It remains to be seen whether Washington can bounce back from his disastrous offseason, and it remains to be seen whether he will play. The Cardinals will likely run a base 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, which will allow them to use two middle linebackers, but the Cardinals have lots of depth at linebacker (as our own Michael Russell noted here).
With Brinkley, who registered 99 tackles (6.2 per game) in 2012 with the Minnesota Vikings, Kevin Minter, who registered 130 tackles in 13 games with LSU, and Dansby, who also finished the 2012 season with 134 tackles, being added at middle linebacker, it’s reasonable to expect Washington’s playing time to decrease. Washington is the most talented middle linebacker out of the group, but he will need to clean up his off-field issues first.
The Cardinals are making a statement to the star linebacker with this move. It’s reasonable to expect Washington to end up as one of the starters (or the starter if the Cardinals run a 4-3) when all is said and done, but don’t be surprised if he has to work his way up a bit after the way this offseason went down. Washington is due a $10 million roster bonus next March, but he’ll have to work his way back if he wants to cash in.
And for that to happen, Washington will need to be a starter. Right now, it’s not looking like he’ll start right off the bat.