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Cutting Washington doesn’t make sense now

Posted by Darren Urban on May 30, 2014 – 4:14 pm

There is a lot to digest with today’s Daryl Washington news and, as I have seen via Twitter and the comments on the blog, many questions. The biggest is what this all means for Washington’s future with the team. Not surprisingly, there are many who have said Washington should just be released.

That seems a little knee-jerk, at least sitting here today. A suspension means the Cards aren’t going to have to pay Washington in 2014. If nothing else, that buys time to survey the situation and see exactly what all the options are. Besides, as bad of a spot as Washington has put the team with his absence, releasing him — at least now — puts the Cardinals in an uglier situation in terms of money and the salary cap.

If the Cardinals cut Washington now, that creates a dead money hit of $7.5 million on the current cap. Absorbing that, even after the money the team will clear on the cap next week as Daryn Colledge’s June 1 designation on his release kicks in, will create a serious cap crunch. (According to the NFLPA site, the Cards have around $4.5 million in cap space currently, and should clear around $5 million or so with the Colledge situation).

More importantly, the collective bargaining agreement includes the ability for teams to get back portions of bonus money paid when a player violates league policies, and the Cardinals are planning on exercising that right. If the Cards cut him now, they no longer can try and get back any money. That’s a crucial piece of information given the huge option bonus the team recently decided to give Washington ($5 million this year and another $5 million is due early next year, when Washington would still be under suspension.)

Any suspended player, per the rules in the Substance Abuse policy, has a contract that is “tolled” during a year-long suspension. In simple terms, Washington’s contract freezes at this point. He doesn’t get money, he doesn’t advance another year toward the end of the contract. It picks up when and if Washington is reinstated (meaning, for instance, his 2014 terms would move to 2015, etc.) Given that reality — and those listed above — there no reason to rush any decision. Again, Washington very well could be released down the road. But it makes little sense for it to be now.


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Dockett tweets optimism

Posted by Darren Urban on May 30, 2014 – 12:26 pm

In the aftermath of the Daryl Washington suspension news — which on the surface sounds harsh to a defense that was ranked sixth in the league last season — veteran defensive tackle Darnell Dockett took to Twitter to essentially calm the fan base.

There’s no way to know how this whole Washington thing turns out. But it goes without saying the players — who were told about Washington’s situation earlier this week — aren’t suddenly blowing off the season. More Monday when the players come back to town for another OTA.


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Ramifications of Washington’s suspension

Posted by Darren Urban on May 30, 2014 – 11:00 am

This one I’m not sure anyone saw coming. Forget the length of Daryl Washington’s suspension, which is not good for a defense that figured to miss him for a couple of games but certainly not 16. It’s at least 16, by the way. He has to be reinstated. It’s not automatic. It’s just that, with the news Washington violated the league’s substance abuse policy again (no, this has nothing to do with his assault case), I can’t help but think back to Washington’s tweet last summer after it came out that violating that same policy was going to cost him a four-game suspension to start 2013.

I promise to work even harder and to not let you guys down anymore.”

That was before his arrest and obviously long before this latest news, which comes with no details, including how this impacts Washington beyond the 2014 season. What this means for Washington’s future in Arizona would only be a guess right now, although coach Bruce Arians is scheduled to meet the media after Monday’s OTA. Speaking of Washington as a person, he’s obviously made some bad, bad decisions and if he doesn’t figure it out at some point he’s in danger of losing his livelihood. Just last week, Washington was sounding genuinely in the dark about his situation.

In a statement released to the media, Washington acknowledges the violation was related to marijuana. Under the league’s substance abuse policy, punishment for being in Stage 2 of the league’s system is a four-game suspension. Washington got a four-game suspension last year. It is in Stage 3 where the minimum suspension is for at least one year. According to that policy, the player has to apply to be reinstated after that year. A return is not automatic. He spends the rest of his career in Stage 3, with unannounced testing and the ability to be tested up to 10 times a month.

GM Steve Keim left no doubt where he stood: “It’s completely unacceptable that Daryl has once again put us in this position.” Football-wise, the Cardinals don’t need this. The organization made the prudent decision to let Karlos Dansby go and not try and overpay him given his age. But I’d guess that was based partly on knowing Washington – even if he had been out a couple of games suspended through his assault plea – was mostly going to be around. Now Washington is not going to be around. It makes the step forward from Kevin Minter that much more important. It makes the signing of Larry Foote that much more crucial. And I’d guess sooner rather than later, the Cardinals will bring in another veteran linebacker. (Ernie Sims visited the other day.)

Washington can’t be at the facility. He won’t get his $2.9 million salary. (For a full breakdown of the suspension’s financial impact on Washington, check out this stuff from overthecap.com.) Cap relief might not come until 2015.

There is time to regroup. Arians will undoubtedly push next man up, and, again from a football perspective, this is just like losing a player with a major injury before the season begins. It happens. But given Washington’s history and cloudy future, there is obviously more that goes into it. And that makes this a difficult situation.

I know some have said cut Washington. That won’t happen. He just got his huge bonus. He doesn’t get paid while he is suspended. He will only be 28 next year, and depending on what happens over the next year (and whether Washington can get his life in order), he figures to return to the field. Of course, things can always change.

“I sincerely apologize for the effect of my actions on my teammates, coaches and other colleagues at the Cardinals,” Washington said in his statement. “I also apologize to Cardinals fans for the time I will miss. I will work diligently during this suspension and will return as a better man and football player.”

We’ll see.

DWashSusBlogShotUSE

 


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Splitting right side reps and OTA notes

Posted by Darren Urban on May 27, 2014 – 1:27 pm

Last week, Bobby Massie (at right tackle) and Earl Watford (right guard) started getting some work with the first unit. It wasn’t that surprising, given how open the job is right now. Bruce Arians clarified it a little more after Tuesday’s OTA, which again featured Massie and Watford with the first unit. By the time the Cards go through six OTAs, Arians said, Massie-Watford and Bradley Sowell-Paul Fanaika will each get three with the first unit. The reps will continue to be divvied up, and let’s face it, nothing can be determined now because offensive linemen aren’t even blocking now. There’s no way to prove yourself in the time of year when, as Arians likes to say, the Cardinals are just playing soccer. The true depth chart/starting jobs won’t be figured out until training camp and the preseason.

(Although, for instance, Massie must sidestep too many mental errors right now, the bugaboo that Arians and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Harold Goodwin like to bring up.)

— Tuesday’s workout was moved an hour earlier with the heat. No bubble will be used when there are this many players. You can only have so many guys inside. Besides, Arians said, “we need the heat to get in shape.” They’ll get in shape, that’s for sure. With some missing players and the fact Arians uses two fields, all the main guys were taking a ton of reps Tuesday. If you were looking to see, for instance, Larry Fitzgerald vs. Antonio Cromartie, there were plenty of opportunities.

— The rookies are a little banged up after minicamp. First-round pick Deone Bucannon has a minor turf toe, Arians said. WR Walt Powell also had to sit out.

— The early thoughts on Andre Ellington from Arians? Hopefully 25 to 30 touches a game, which is a ton and basically unheard of these days for a running back. A lot of that will have to do with Ellington’s receptions (Arians has made no secret he wants to use Ellington a bunch as a receiver). There’s no question Ellington is the No. 1 back. How that translates to the stat sheet, we will see.

— Arians did say the Cardinals will use more two-back packages than last season, and that’s not the time when a tight end moves back there. There will be no true fullback on the roster, but both Jonathan Dwyer and Robert Hughes are beefy enough to be in there, I’d think.

— As the team waits on word about Daryl Washington’s status, Arians said he would like to add a veteran inside linebacker if the right guy came available. That’s not a big surprise.

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Washington waits for NFL decision

Posted by Darren Urban on May 20, 2014 – 1:28 pm

Daryl Washington was on the field in his usual starting inside linebacker spot for Tuesday’s opening of the Cardinals’ organized team activities. Afterward, he said he was like everyone else, waiting to hear what the NFL will decide for his fate following his plea agreement last month on an assault charge.

“I can’t really worry about it because it’s something that’s going to happen,” Washington said of a possible suspension. “I can’t say I hope nothing happens. Something is going to happen and I am a little worried. But I am just ready for a decision to know where I stand. It’s a waiting process right now.”

Washington has been through this before, after finding out last year that he would serve a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. In that case, though, Washington knew exactly what was coming in terms of length. The unknown in this instance makes the waiting more difficult.

“You know about being prepared, but you still get nervous about the situation, whether it’s going to be one game, two games, five games,” Washington said. “All I can do is focus on what I can do, which is go out and try and get better every day.”

“I’m ready to have the situation over with,” Washington added. “I’m focusing on football and it’s good to be out here with my teammates.”

DWashBlogUSE


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Washington again makes top 100 list

Posted by Darren Urban on May 11, 2014 – 10:59 am

The draft is over, so it’s time to hit some other subjects. The NFL Network is once again doing their list of the top 100 players in the league. The Cardinals got their first mention with linebacker Daryl Washington, who comes in at No. 96 (down two spots from where he was ranked last year.) Interestingly, the theme of the video is that not many know who D-Wash is. Obviously, that’s not a problem around the Cardinals.

In fact, all this video does is underscore how important Washington is to the Cards even with his off-field issues. It’s been a year since he got into trouble, first with the announcement of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and then an arrest for assault. But the aftermath lingers, after Washington recently (and finally) had his court case play out. He received probation, but everyone now waits to see when and if the NFL decides to give Washington another suspension. Because the suspension wouldn’t take place until the regular-season, there is time before it would be an issue, but I’m sure everyone involved would like to have resolution. That includes the fan base.

With the departure of Karlos Dansby, Washington becomes even more important to this defense. If the Cards keep winning, it seems inevitable Washington will rise higher in the top 100 list over the next couple of years.

— One quick post-draft note: Teams have started to agree to terms with undrafted rookies, but the Cardinals won’t officially put their list out of players until Monday.


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Cards add LB Foote

Posted by Darren Urban on May 6, 2014 – 10:20 pm

The draft is coming Thursday, but the Cardinals decided not to wait until then to add to the roster. The news came out Tuesday night that veteran linebacker Larry Foote is signing a one-year contract with the Cards. Foote confirmed the move to the Associated Press and later tweeted about coming to the Cards. (The team has yet to officially announce the move. Now it has.) With the uncertainty of what will happen with Daryl Washington and any possible suspension along with depth needs in general, a Foote signing makes a lot of sense. It shouldn’t impact the draft and it’s not even a lock the 34-year-old Foote will make the final roster depending on who else ends up on the team. This is a depth move. Nothing has been handed to Kevin Minter, but I don’t think this has anything to do with dissatisfaction with him either.

Foote considered coming here as a free agent back in 2010, He spent most of his career with the Steelers, including last year, although Foote played in only one game before rupturing his right biceps. He coincidentally was cut by the Steelers in March on the same day Pittsburgh released former Cards tackle Levi Brown.


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Only the truth(?): Highlights from a draft presser

Posted by Darren Urban on May 1, 2014 – 12:20 pm

You have to hand it to GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians, who managed to make a 30-minute pre-draft press conference entertaining considering that no real news can come out of it. As willing as both are to interact with the media, no secrets are coming out. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have some fun with it.

“Everything you hear this time of year is the furthest thing from the truth. Except from us two,” Keim deadpanned.

And as far as mock drafts go, Arians — who smiled and said he read ‘em all — was blunt: “They make for banter and chatter and good bar talk, but there isn’t much reality to it.”

As far as the other quick-hit highlights (I’ll post a story later today on the homepage):

— Keim wouldn’t rule out trading up but made it clear trading down made much more sense. Keim wants to have more than the six draft picks the Cards already have. It’ll be wait-and-see if that can happen.

— Keim said coaches and scouts have already reached out to some players who may not get drafted, to try and sell them on the idea of the Cardinals as a good fit and signing in Arizona as an undrafted free agent. That’s interesting, since the draft itself will alter the roster landscape.

— Neither would rule out drafting a quarterback, although Arians acknowledged it’s tough to have a first-round pick sit. There are quarterbacks they like. No, they wouldn’t say who. (At one point, Arians was asked how many QBs they would take in the first round. “Ten,” Arians said with a grin.) But taking a guy later? That sounded less promising as Arians talked about how many holes are in the games of QBs that last that long. “To think you’re going to draft (a QB) in the third round and he’s going to beat out (third-stringer) Ryan Lindley, that’s tough to do.”

— Arians said the potential suspension of Daryl Washington would not change how the Cards make their picks.

— The Cardinals finished their “120” board this morning, the list on which the Cards will make their draft selections. The powers-that-be will run through a bunch of mock draft scenarios Tuesday in order to try and get a sense of the many ways the first round can go.

— Keim said Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier can play inside or outside, and in regard to Shazier’s smaller size, noted that he was similar to the 49ers’ Patrick Willis and bigger than Navarro Bowman.

— He said ASU’s Will Sutton is more of a 4-3 under tackle.

— Keim said there are “four to five” safeties at the top of the list. After that there is a dropoff to guys who may or may not be able to start in the NFL at some point.

— Arians was impressed with Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas’ arm strength. He hesitated slightly when asked if Thomas’ future position is QB. “He thinks so,” Arians said.

— Keim on Johnny Manziel: “He’s one of the few guys this year when you are evaluating players where you want to get a big Coke and a popcorn box, put your feet up and it’s fun to watch. … There are not many guys who have come out with his skill-set. He’s a polarizing figure.”

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Voluntary workouts can be rewarding

Posted by Darren Urban on April 25, 2014 – 12:49 pm

The Cardinals have had good turnout at their voluntary work thus far, which is always good to see. I’ve seen almost everyone on the current roster at some point (I keep getting questions about players that aren’t in photos — Patrick Peterson, Ted Ginn and Carson Palmer in particular. I have seen all three. Workouts run at 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. after meetings. I’m not taking pictures at 6 and usually I’ve moved on in my day at 12:30, so just because they aren’t in a photo doesn’t mean anything.) It’s important to have guys around, as Darnell Dockett noted yesterday.

“This is voluntary, so when you have guys here, voluntary, and we grade out at 94 percent every day of people coming in, that shows the right direction we’re trying to go in,” he said. “Not showing up with 20 guys, missing 15 here and 30 here, 20 guys late, people missing in the classroom. That’s a bad sign. So right now every day we’re getting out this work, and we’re appreciating it and enjoying it. We’re getting better. Chemistry is not all about coming in talking about football and weights. We’re getting to know each other.”

Kent Somers does a nice job chronicling how Dockett’s mindset has changed after multiple offseasons when he wasn’t here. Part of the change for the Cards — and around the NFL for that matter — has been a proliferation of workout bonuses in contracts. Players get paid for their weekly attendance, but it’s not much really, $175 a day as stipulated by the collective bargaining agreement. If you make the workouts a fruitful part of the paycheck, you tend to motivate. Overthecap.com writes about this. Seven teams in the league have invested at least $2 million of cap space into offseason workout bonuses, including the Cardinals at $2.085 million. The most is the Packers, at $4.325M, and that’s not a surprise knowing that many players probably wouldn’t want to stick around Green Bay in the offseason if they could avoid it.

Nine Cardinals collect six figures just for showing up for whatever the prescribed amount of offseason workouts would be (it’s usually a high percentage of the total days available.) Dockett, DE Calais Campbell, WR Larry Fitzgerald and QB Drew Stanton get $250,000. C Lyle Sendlein and S Rashad Johnson get $150,000. Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy gets $125,000. Linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Daryl Washington get $100,000. And there are eight other players who get money.

Cash doesn’t explain everything. There are a ton of guys on the roster — big-name guys — who have been here and get no extra monetary reward for doing so, including new players like Jared Veldheer, Antonio Cromartie and Ted Ginn. There is a push from those on the roster to make sure teammates are hear for the reason of just making sure the team will be as good as possible. But as always, money plays a role.

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Washington sentenced to probation

Posted by Darren Urban on April 23, 2014 – 9:26 am

The court case for linebacker Daryl Washington has finally come to a conclusion, almost a year after his initial arrest. Washington, who entered a plea last month after being charged with assault on the mother of his child, was sentenced Wednesday morning to one year of supervised probation for one aggravated assault charge. That means no jail time, although that is not a surprise given his plea deal. But now comes the second part of this equation. The NFL has been monitoring the case, of course, but it waits until it is fully played out before handing out any of its own punishment. That time has arrived.

How long it takes the NFL to make a decision on whether or not to suspend Washington — who served an unrelated four-game suspension to begin last season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy — is up in the air. Anything that would happen would come in the form of a regular-season ban, so there is time. Given the way commissioner Roger Goodell has handled things in the personal conduct area, a suspension would not be a surprise. Washington is officially charged with a felony, but if he performs well during the probation — essentially does everything the court asks — it will be reduced to a misdemeanor. What that means for the NFL is in question; a felony isn’t a good thing, obviously, but does the possible reduction play into the decision?

The Cardinals weathered the Washington-is-missing storm last year (going 2-2 in his absence.) We’ll see later today when the schedule comes out — 5 p.m. Arizona time, be sure to check azcardinals.com then! — what the Cards face in September. Last year, of course, the Cards had Karlos Dansby upon which to fall back without Washington. Dansby is gone. There is Kevin Minter, and Lorenzo Alexander, Kenny Demens and JoJo Dickson, and maybe a draft pick. Washington was already a key to this defense. Any absence will have an impact.

UPDATE: Coach Bruce Arians briefly addressed Washington this morning at the Cardinals’ charity golf tournament. “We’ve known this was coming for a long time,” Arians said. “Daryl’s known it. Whatever the judge decides is right, in this case. And we’ll live with it. We’ll wait and see how it goes.”

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