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Suspension fallout: Assessing the damage

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The NFL league office rang in the Fourth of July weekend with a host of suspensions on Thursday.

With four key players banned to start the season, let's take a look at the fallout for each team.

1. Sheldon Richardson, Jets defensive lineman: Over the past decade, Richardson's 144 tackles are the most any defensive lineman has generated in his first two NFL seasons. He won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013, made the Pro Bowl in 2014 and led the Jets in sacks last season. In short, he has rivaled Muhammad Wilkerson as the organization's most valuable player over the past two seasons.

On the bright side, the Jets are prepared to play without Richardson for a quarter of the season after drafting Leonard Williams -- widely viewed as this year's top defensive prospect -- at No. 6 overall. A defensive line of Williams, Wilkerson and Damon "Snacks" Harrison should still be among the league's most stout.

2. Antonio Gates, Chargers tight end: A potential Hall of Famer and one of the best tight ends of his generation, Gates has been Philip Rivers' security blanket for the past decade. Although he's lost a step at age 35, Gates remains a top-notch red-zone weapon.

Similar to the Jets with Richardson, the Chargers have a premium four-game insurance policy in the form of Ladarius Green. One of our top "Making the Leap" candidates last season, Green has the physical gifts to start for more than half of the NFL's 32 teams. He might not match Gates' end-zone prowess, but still offers the speed to stretch the seam. This is not a back-breaking suspension for Rivers' aerial attack.

3. Rolando McClain, Cowboys linebacker: A finalist for Comeback Player of the Year in 2014, McClain was often the best player on a Dallas defense that exceeded expectations. That said, he's never been known for reliability. The four-game suspension couldn't have been a major surprise.

The Cowboys have a trio of players with middle linebacker experience in Sean Lee, second-year thumper Anthony Hitchens and journeyman Jasper Brinkley. They'll want to keep Lee on the weak side to help avoid injuries, which leaves Hitchens and Brinkley as candidates to fill McClain's role. Although both are assets in the run game, the Cowboys might need to shift in a safety alongside Lee on obvious passing downs.

4. Datone Jones, Packers defensive end: Another of our 2014 "Making the Leap" candidates, showed flashes of disruption last season but never emerged as an impact starter. With B.J. Raji now healthy to pair with Josh Boyd in a rotation, the Packers have the depth to deal with Jones' one-game absence.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast welcomes back Lindsay Rhodes to recap Antonio Gates' suspension and the 'Top 100' rankings. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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