Earlier this year, Cardinals linebacker Darryl Washington earned a $10 million option bonus. His contract contains a clause deferring $5 million to next year, which created the impression that Washington indeed has received the first half of the money.
According to Ed Werder of ESPN, Washington hasn’t gotten any of it, yet.
It could be a distinction without a difference, since Washington has technically earned the $10 million. But because his one-year suspension compels the Cardinals to recover $2.5 million of it (and all of it, if he’s never reinstated), the process becomes a lot more efficient if Washington hasn’t gotten paid any of the money.
Indeed, there’s a good chance the Cardinals specifically opted not to pay the earned money after learning about the positive test that resulted in the one-year suspension.
As explained Friday, a one-year suspension actually tolls Washington’s contract, pushing the final four years from 2014 through 2017 to 2015 through 2018. So while the Cardinals get $2.5 million back, Washington gets the opportunity to earn the money back by returning to the team and fulfilling the contract.
Before that becomes relevant, Washington must be reinstated. If he is, he keeps the $7.5 million (barring another suspension), and he can re-earn the forfeited $2.5 million. Based on the language of Appendix D to the substance-abuse policy, which sets forth the automatic procedures for signing/option bonus forfeitures (i.e., the Cardinals must seek repayment of the money; they have no option or discretion), Washington arguably must play under the terms of the contract through 2018 to get the $2.5 million back.
Even if he’s reinstated, it’s unlikely he’ll be a member of the Cardinals come 2018. Based on his apparent inability to choose football over marijuana, it’s currently a worse-than-50-50 proposition that he’ll ever play for the Cardinals again, or anyone else.