Paying Daryl Washington a good risk

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It’s hard to forget about $10 million, but flying below the radar of free agency on Tuesday was the option bonus the Arizona Cardinals gave to linebacker Daryl Washington.

It was handed out on Tuesday, the first day of the league calendar, but was divided into two installments. Washington received the first $5 million this week and will receive the second $5 million on March 31, 2015.

Despite Washington’s legal troubles, his four-game suspension last season and the possibility for a longer suspension next season, the Cardinals took a risk in paying him the bonus, but it was a smart risk. Cut him and you’re giving up a young Pro Bowl linebacker who you've already invested a lot of money in -- and who is now the foundation of the middle of your defense with Karlos Dansby leaving for Cleveland.

Keep him and your future is steady, as long as he stays on the field, and you’ll reap the benefits of his speed and athleticism.

The Cardinals understand there’s the possibility that Washington could face a longer suspension if he’s found guilty at an April 30th trial on charges of aggravated assault charges stemming from his arrest May 1, 2013. But if he’s found not guilty next month, Washington will be on the field for the foreseeable future. In 12 games he made 81 tackles, had three sacks and intercepted two passes. Solid numbers for 75 percent of a season. Put him on the field for all 16 games and another Pro Bowl selection was almost inevitable.

Arizona had two choices: Pay Washington or cut him. Especially after losing Dansby, the Cardinals couldn’t go into free agency without either of their starting inside linebackers from 2013. That wasn’t likely to happen considering Washington’s upside.

The Cardinals made the move they had to with Washington and they’re hoping it wasn’t a waste of money.