Inside linebacker Daryl Washington was recently reinstated into the NFL and has vowed to return to the All-Pro form he displayed in 2012. Working against him is the fact the Arizona Cardinals released him on Thursday.
Washington broke out in 2012 with a 134-tackle, nine-sack season. That breakout campaign will likely lead at least one of the league’s other 31 teams to consider taking a chance on the 30-year-old, who has just four seasons under his belt and hasn’t played since Dec. 29, 2013.
Any intrigued party will have to look past the domestic violence incident and multiple substance-abuse violations that led to his lengthy suspension.
With that in mind, here are five possible landing spots for Washington:
Los Angeles Chargers
Ken Whisenhunt was the head coach of the Cardinals in 2012 when Washington enjoyed his best NFL season. Five years later, Whisenhunt is now the offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and head coach Anthony Lynn will have the most say on who will comprise L.A.’s defensive roster, but if Whisenhunt shares any stories of Washington’s nine-sack campaign, the Chargers could slot him with Denzel Perryman on the interior of their linebacker unit.
New York Jets
When Washington last took the field, Todd Bowles was the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator. He’s now running the show as the head coach of the New York Jets. The Jets are starting anew after a disappointing 5-11 season and are in the midst of rebuilding their roster. While they’re set at the inside linebacker position with Darron Lee and David Harris, Washington could fill a backup or depth role as he reintegrates himself into the league.
Dallas is a team that could use an inside linebacker adept at rushing the passer. The Cowboys also have a history of providing second chances to troubled players and have proven they have the patience to wait for their talent to contribute (see: Jaylon Smith). Smith expects to be in the lineup for Week 1 after missing all of his rookie season, but should he suffer a setback, Washington could instead slot in behind Anthony Hitchens.
The Raiders have a roster capable of contending right now, and their greatest weakness appears to be in the second level of their defense. Oakland couldn’t address the inside linebacker position early in the draft. If Washington can provide anything close to the production he put up during his four seasons in the desert, he would be a boon to the Raiders. With a strong core of defensive leaders surrounding him, Oakland just might be the right fit for Washington.
Ah yes, the new home for players with troubled pasts. Adam Jones. Joe Mixon. Vontaze Burfict. If there’s a club that relishes the opportunity to rehabilitate a player, it’s Marvin Lewis and Mike Brown’s Cincinnati Bengals.
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