Daryl Washington is one of the most valuable, underrated defensive players in the entire NFL. That's why his loss will be so disappointing for the Arizona Cardinals' defense.
The NFL announced Friday that Washington has been suspended without pay for at least one year for violating the league's Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. The suspension is effective immediately.
"I recently learned that I had violations of the NFL Substances of Abuse policy related to marijuana," Washington's statement read. "The policy is very strict, and I have chosen to take responsibility. I am committed to making changes in my life that will allow me to return to the NFL as soon as possible."
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported on "NFL Total Access" that the Cardinals might try to recoup the $10 million Washington was owed in March for an option bonus (Rapoport later reported payments were set to be deferred throughout 2014 and 2015. If the Cardinals do go after the money in total, the plan is for them to deduct a pro-rated portion of it at 25 percent based on four years of contract). As far a replacement on the field, the Cards hosted Ernie Sims this week, and "all eyes" are now on the free-agent linebacker, per Rapoport.
In the wake of the yearlong suspension, Washington will seek counseling and hopes to return to the NFL, Rapoport added.
Washington also was suspended four games last season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. In addition to his football-related issues, Washington was sentenced in April by an Arizona judge to one year probation for assaulting a former girlfriend.
The linebacker is not a household name, but his rightful place on NFL Network's Top 100 Players series in back-to-back seasons shows the respect he has earned around the league. Few inside linebackers can match his playmaking ability in pass coverage and as a pass rusher.
The Cardinals allowed Karlos Dansby to leave via free agency this offseason, with the expectation that 2013 second-round pick Kevin Minter could replace Dansby on the inside next to Washington. Now, the Cardinals will be looking for another replacement. Arizona's defense remains one of the more talented units in the league, but they will be vulnerable up the middle at linebacker with questions at safety as well.
"It's completely unacceptable that Daryl has once again put us in this position. We all know what the consequences are and will deal with them. From a personal standpoint, our hope is that this suspension will give Daryl the opportunity to accept the necessary help and guidance to get his life back on track and we will certainly support him however we can.
"As it pertains to our team, our approach is the same as it's always been: next man up. We talk a lot about how critical depth is to a team because situations always arise where you lose players, whether by injury or other circumstances such as this one. One player's absence is another's opportunity. That approach has served us well in the past and we will rely on it now."