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Daryl Washington should not factor in Cardinals’ draft, season plans

The NFL’s decision to reinstate linebacker Daryl Washington may have come too late for the Arizona Cardinals. It may have come too soon for those rightfully enraged by his domestic violence incident.

But before we start wondering how many Pro Bowls or protests Washington might generate, let’s take a breath and remember there is still a host of questions to answer before the Cardinals incorporate Washington into their plans.

This is the National Football League, where elite talent forgives most crimes, so nobody would be shocked if the Cardinals gave Washington a look-see to gauge whether he can still play at the Pro Bowl level he did in 2012. On the one hand, Washington, 30, has three fewer seasons of mileage on his body. On the other, he hasn’t played a game since 2013, which will absolutely impact his preparedness, despite a statement he released to Pro Football Talk on Tuesday.

“Physically I’m in the best shape of my life and have maintained a strenuous six-day per week workout plan for over a year in anticipation of this day and next season. I understand the physical and mental demands that it takes to be an All-Pro linebacker in this League, and I fully intend to play at that level this season.”

If the NFL grants Washington permission to practice with the team, and if the Cardinals invite him to their offseason workouts and he displays that All-Pro ability, you can bet they will give this decision more thought than they did to releasing marginally talented running back Jonathan Dwyer after his arrest on suspicion of domestic violence in 2014.

That said, the optics on this issue have changed dramatically for the league since Ray Rice’s deplorable altercation with his then-fiancée, now-wife Janay Palmer in Atlantic City. Will that sway the Cardinals’ decision, or will the sentiment be that three seasons on the shelf is enough punishment?

Do the Cardinals really believe, as Washington said in his statement, that he has made “tremendous strides as a man” and has “grown into a proud husband, father, and contributing member of [his] community”?

Are the Cardinals satisfied that the marijuana issue that Washington admitted led to the suspension is now under control?

On a less egregious but still significant level, how much resentment still exists within the organization for the repeated times Washington let down his team, not to mention that $10 million roster bonus he took from team president Michael Bidwill under the auspices he’d be back on the field in 2014?

Here’s what we know. An NFL spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that Washington will not face an additional fine or suspension for his domestic violence incident because it has already been addressed. When Washington applied for reinstatement previously, his petition was denied and the domestic violence incident became a part of his three-year suspension.

The Arizona Republic reported that when Washington was suspended, his contract was essentially frozen at 2014 levels. If he were to play this year under his old contract, he would make $2.9 million in salary, although it’s unlikely the Cardinals would pay him that much, given his history.

There is no guarantee that Washington will even be allowed to resume practices with the team, per an NFL statement released Tuesday.

“Prior to the start of the regular season, the NFL will review Washington’s progress. Based on his compliance and engagement with his program and resources, he will be permitted to participate in all regular season activities beginning in Week 1. He will be evaluated later in the season for full reinstatement.”

There is no guarantee the Cardinals will want him, per their own release.

“Considering we have been prohibited from having any contact with him over the last three years, it would be premature today to discuss a potential return to the team. As everyone is aware, the 2017 NFL Draft is just days away and that is where our energy and attention is fully focused right now. At the appropriate time, we will address the issue of Daryl Washington further.”

It’s no secret the Cardinals are thin at inside linebacker and have pondered drafting one. If Washington can still play at a high level, he could be a solution, but given all the uncertainty surrounding him, it would be foolish for the Cardinals to factor him into any of their draft or future plans right now. They should proceed as if he is never going to play another game for them — the same predicament in which Washington left the Cardinals for the last three seasons.

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