Cardinals' star Washington suspended 4 games
The NFL announced Wednesday that Washington has been suspended for four games due to a violation of the league's substance abuse policy. Washington adamantly stated that he holds himself accountable for his actions, saying, "I was always taught that when you make a mistake, you admit it, learn from it and face whatever consequences there are. I take full responsibility and I understand that I let down my teammates, the organization and fans. I apologize for that and promise that no one will work harder to make up for it."
As a result of the suspension, the Cardinals have a big hole to fill at the beginning of the season. Jasper Brinkley - ranked by Pro Football Focus as one of the league's worst inside linebackers in 2012 - is expected to start at one ILB spot in the Cardinals' 3-4 defense. A competition between Lorenzo Alexander, Zack Nash, and Reggie Walker will decide who starts at the other ILB spot. Any of those three players would be a significant downgrade from Washington. Bringing in a free agent such as Karlos Dansby or Takeo Spikes is also an option.
Washington was exceptional in 2012, earning second team All-Pro honors and a late add to the NFC Pro Bowl roster (he should have been a Pro Bowler from the start). He is the league's premier pass rushing inside linebacker, as he recorded 9.0 sacks last season - the most of anyone playing his position. He is also strong against the run, as he used his exceptional range to rack up 134 tackles (11th in the NFL).
This may be the first time you're hearing his name, but Washington has been one of the more promising young stars in the NFL, and it's a shame to hear about his violation of league policy. The Cardinals will surely miss him, especially if they don't sign a more suitable replacement via free agency.
Washington is signed through 2017 on a contract worth only $5.4 million annually on average - obviously a great bargain for the Cardinals. He'll look to put this suspension behind him and build on a fantastic 2012 season.