There are contractual ramifications as well. Those are a little confusing, but it’s looking like changes made to Washington’s contract last month could have had more to do with clearing salary-cap room than anything else.
The extension Washington signed last season called for the team to pay a $10 million option bonus to him in order to secure the 2014 through 2017 seasons of the deal.
The bonus was to be paid by the final day of the 2013 league year, which extends into March 2014. However, Washington and the Cardinals renegotiated the deal one day before free agency opened last month. The new deal calls for the bonus to be paid by the first day of the 2014 league year, which begins in March 2014.
The change cleared $2 million in salary cap space for the 2013 season right about when the Cardinals were unloading contracts for those very purposes. In that context, the new payment date for the $10 million bonus might not mean as much on the calendar as it means on the 2013 balance sheet.
The $10 million option bonus goes from counting $2 million per year against the 2013 through 2017 caps to $2.5 million annually against the 2014 through 2017 caps.
There are still some unanswered questions. What protections, if any, did Washington receive in exchange for helping the team clear cap space? Did the team know about the looming suspension when renegotiating the contract? Are the Cardinals less likely to pay that $10 million in light of recent events? Might they use the suspension to contest some of that money or any portions of salary they've guaranteed for future years?
Note: Thanks to @corryjoel for pointing out that moving back the bonus could help Washington by shielding a portion of the $10 million from whatever would be lost while serving a suspension this year.