The Raiders should not sign Daryl Washington

Nov 17, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington (58) tries to push Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew (32) out of bounds in the fourth quarter of their game at EverBank Field. The Arizona Cardinals beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-14. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 17, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington (58) tries to push Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew (32) out of bounds in the fourth quarter of their game at EverBank Field. The Arizona Cardinals beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-14. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite the need at inside linebacker, the Oakland Raiders should pass on signing former Cardinals LB Daryl Washington.

Daryl Washington has been conditionally reinstated to the NFL after serving multiple suspensions that spanned the course of three seasons. Last week, the Arizona Cardinals released the former Pro Bowl linebacker, making him free to sign anywhere, and the Oakland Raiders are still in need of help at the position.

Therefore, there is speculation and opinion as to whether Washington should join the Raiders, and whether the team should even pursue him. It makes sense on paper.

Washington is talented. He’s hungry, eager to prove himself. In 2013, his last season, Washington was a top coverage linebacker to boot. The Raiders, in case you live in a cave, have some difficulty covering the tight end. They desperately need a proven inside linebacker to anchor the defense. It all makes sense.

Despite that, though, Washington is not that linebacker.

The Raiders have a strong stance against domestic violence. The organization is fiercely loyal — once a Raider, always a Raider. This franchise takes care of their own.

So when Raider legend Fred Biletnikoff’s daughter Tracey was tragically murdered by her boyfriend in February 1999, the great Al Davis and the Raider organization stepped up to support their receivers coach and the foundation he birthed to honor his fallen daughter.

In light of somewhat recent events, Raiders owner Mark Davis took a definitive stand on domestic violence. He partnered with the Biletnikoff Foundation and committed $50,000 to Tracey’s Place of Hope. Mark Davis and the Raiders want you to know they don’t tolerate domestic violence. They care deeply about its effects.

This matters because Washington pled guilty to two counts of domestic assault that broke his ex-girlfriend’s collar bone. Ultimately, the Raiders would be contravening their own publicly stated morals and values if they did sign Washington, particularly regarding domestic violence. GM Reggie McKenzie has repeatedly stated and proven that he seeks players with high moral fiber and strong character.

They’ve danced on the line this offseason. In recent years the Raiders have drafted squeaky clean players that also happen to be awesome. Players like Khalil Mack, Derek Carr and Amari Cooper. McKenzie seems to have deviated from that into the controversial pool this year.

Gareon Conley is the subject of a rape investigation. Though he seems a good character and though evidence seems to support his story, it’s still happening. The optics aren’t great.

UDFA TE Pharoah Brown has been investigated for twice fighting with teammates, and once for choking his girlfriend. Investigations show that Brown’s girlfriend was the aggressor in the incident and Brown was likely defending himself. People have a right to defend themselves, but again, the optics aren’t great.

UDFA WR Ishmael Zamora beat his dog viciously. There is no disputing this, as there is video evidence. He was suspended from Baylor for the incident. He seemed truly contrite, but he beat a dog. There isn’t much you can say to defend that. Because it’s video evidence of someone beating a dog — the optics REALLY aren’t great.

The point is that the Raiders are tight-roping their way across the recently cultivated franchise-wide commitment to high character individuals and players. As the only team without an arrest since 2014, it has clearly worked and the Raiders are beginning to garner a lot of respect among pundits and experts both on and off the field.

It also seems to matter quite a bit to Del Rio, McKenzie and the Raider players as they continually preach pride, commitment, and accountability.

Mack, Carr, Bruce Irvin and coaches Jack Del Rio, Ken Norton Jr. and Rod Woodson are high character leaders who keep people in line. Therefore, character risks in the Raider locker room have numerous people to hold them in check. That doesn’t mean the team should stock up on them, however.

Washington says he’s in great shape. He claims the time off has actually made him a better player. Losing out on your livelihood is sobering. He deserves a second chance.

But not with the Raiders.

A team that has publicly stated a “zero-tolerance” policy against domestic violence would delve into hypocrisy in signing Washington. Last year, Davis shut down any talk of Greg Hardy emphatically.

"He stated to Anne Killion of the SF Chronicle in regards to domestic violence that “It’s just something we can’t tolerate,” Davis said. “I don’t know how to fix it in society but I know we can’t have it on our team.”"

He didn’t say — “Except if we really, really need a MIKE and Daryl Washington happens to become available. Then it’s all good.”

Davis and the Raiders garnered praise for their stance on Hardy as a team actually willing to stand by their values despite desperately needing a pass rusher. In the same boat this year, why would they reverse course? Particularly for a player with the added baggage of drug history and inactivity?

I’m not against second chances in life. I won’t object or even really comment if another team signs Washington. He pled his plea, paid his dues and hasn’t been in trouble since. He’s saying and doing all the right things. He very likely is ready to come back and wreck shop. If it’s with anyone outside the AFC West, I hope he does.

However, I am a Raider fan and as such I care how this franchise conducts their business. This team is good enough to win without Washington. I may be a minority — though I may not be — when I say that winning the right way is important rather than just winning at all costs. If it wasn’t, why the hell do people make such a fuss over the Patriots?

I’m quite proud of the unique renegade reputation crafted by Raiders of lore. But that reputation was cultivated through drinking, partying and playing hard. Not through drug suspensions and assaulting women.

Sports go beyond the game on the field or court, particularly now when social media gives everyone a voice at any time. This article and my reasons against signing Washington go beyond the football field. His lack of meaningful football since 2013 is a big part of my hesitation, though.

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It’s very tempting. The Raiders are very few pieces away from being serious Super Bowl threats, and MLB is one of the most gaping holes on the team. Washington was a baller before his suspension and he says he’s in the best shape of his life and ready to rock. He probably is.

The Raiders have some pieces on the roster, and one sitting in free agency. At this point it’s worth taking the risk on Marquel Lee, one of the other rookies, or re-signing Perry Riley — though they don’t seem too inclined to do that at the moment.

The toxic cocktail assault, drug abuse, and playing no snaps since 2013 conspire to make Washington a huge risk. Added to the potential of looking like the team is contrary to Davis’ word on domestic violence, it isn’t a risk worth taking.