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What if Daryl Washington actually returns to the Cardinals?

FILe - In this Dec. 22, 2013 file photo, Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington jogs off the field after the Cardinals beat the Seahawks 17-10 in an NFL football game, in Seattle. A judge in Maricopa County Superior Court, on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, sentenced Washington to a year of supervised probation for assaulting a former girlfriend who is the mother of his daughter. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear, File)

Ever hear of the Tuesday news dump? No? Yeah, it doesn’t really exist.

Yet, it was this past Tuesday when the NFL dropped a bomb on the Arizona Cardinals, announcing that linebacker Daryl Washington had been conditionally reinstated following what has amounted to a three-year suspension.

Washington, who had issues with substance abuse as well as domestic violence, claims to have made “tremendous strides as a man,” and it’s possible that is actually the case.

But can the Cardinals count on him, the person? How about Washington, the player?

Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan wrote that regardless of either question, the Cardinals should not let Washington factor into their plans for the draft or the 2017 season, while ESPN’s Merril Hoge is pretty confident the linebacker, should he ever play again, will not be the player he was when last on the field.

At 30 years of age and having been out of football for three seasons, it’s understandable to believe D-Wash is probably washed up.

But what if he isn’t?

What if Washington really is in great shape, and will return to the field fresh with little rust to shake off?

If so, what kind of player would the Cardinals have? An impact one, to say the least.

A second-round pick out of TCU in 2010, Washington showed his promise by collecting 78 total tackles, one sack, two passes defensed and one interception in 16 games, 11 of which he started.

Cemented in his role in the middle of Arizona’s defense, he produced 107 total tackles along with five sacks, seven passes defensed and two interceptions in 2011. He then made the Pro Bowl in 2012 after posting 134 tackles along with nine sacks, four passes defensed and one pick, along with a fumble recovery.

In September of 2012 he and the Cardinals agreed to a six-year contract with the linebacker because, quite simply, he was really, really good.

Of course, it was following that season when his off-field issues popped up, and he was forced to miss the first four games of the 2013 season due to his first suspension. But when he came back, Washington paired with Karlos Dansby to form one of the best middle-linebacker duos in the NFL, with both being three-down players who could help against the run, get after the quarterback and play in coverage.

In just 12 games playing next to Dansby, who arguably should have been a Pro Bowler himself, Washington notched 75 total tackles, three sacks, 11 passes defensed, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

For a reminder of what Washington was capable of with an epic music bed behind it, watch these:

In short, linebackers who can chase down quarterbacks like Michael Vick and Cam Newton while also showing coverage ability are in short supply, which is why the Cardinals might very well give Washington another chance.

Back in 2014, when it was learned Washington was learned he was kicked out of the NFL again, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians offered some stern remarks regarding the linebacker.

“This will be the last time this will be addressed by the Cardinals — we will not talk about guys who are not with us, ever again,” he began. “We obviously hope that Daryl gets his life straightened out, but he also was very unaccountable to his teammates, the organization, the fans and everybody else.

“From this point forward, after today, I’ve already told the players, there will be no questions answered about Daryl Washington. He’s no longer with us.”

In the same press conference, however, Arians noted how Washington offered “speed that you can’t teach,” which is likely something that will factor into the team’s thoughts going forward.

The possibility of putting Washington on the field with Dansby, who was signed again for this season, and $LB Deone Bucannon, has to at least have given defensive coordinator James Bettcher a slight grin.

Because while Washington has been suspended the last three seasons, he has now been reinstated. And if he does everything right from here on out, the Cardinals may be able to add a Pro Bowl talent, essentially, out of thin air.

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