The NFL has suspended Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth after his plea bargain with Miami prosecutors for his role in the death of a married father of a 15-year old girl. Stallworth struck and killed Mario Reyes while driving under the influence early in the morning and plead guilty to DUI manslaughter last week. The plea agreement was heavily criticized because it called for only 30 days in jail as well as financial compensation for Reyes’ family, in addition to a lengthy period of probation, a lifetime driving suspension and two years of house arrest.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Stallworth indefinitely but indications are that Stallworth will face a lengthy suspension. Goodell used strong language throughout his press release, leaving little doubt where the league stands on these types of situations and that Stallworth’s punishment from the league will be severe.
Goodell commented that Stallworth’s actions were “inexcusable” and “caused irreparable harm to the victim and his family, your club, your fellow players and the NFL.” He also stated that Stallworth’s conduct “plainly violates the Personal Conduct and Substances of Abuse policies” and that “there is ample evidence to warrant significant discipline under both policies.” Finally, Goodell stated that “all NFL employees recognize that alcohol-related violations of the law will not be tolerated.”
The league has come down hard on repeat offenders of the league’s Personal Conduct policies. Former Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones received a six game suspension after receiving an indefinite suspension for his numerous legal issues. Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry faced an eight game ban for repeated violations of the law and Rams defensive end Leonard Little faced an eight-game ban after he struck and killed a Missouri woman while driving under the influence. Little was suspended in 1999 at a time when the league was more lenient regarding suspensions for violations of the law.
Based on Goodell’s efforts to strengthen the league Personal Conduct policies, his previous suspension decisions and Little’s eight-game suspension in 1999, a 12-game ban seems very likely with an outside chance that Stallworth is suspended for the entire 2009 season.
Fantasy Football Impact
It is worth noting that since Stallworth’s arrest, the Browns have signed free agent wide receivers David Patten and Mike Furrey and used 2nd round draft picks on Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi. With Braylon Edwards clearly established as the team’s top wide receiver, standout returner Josh Cribbs occupying a roster spot at wide receiver and the Browns unlikely to give up on 2007 7th round pick Syndric Steptoe, Stallworth does not appear to be in the team’s plans for 2009.
In fact, it is likely that he remains on the team’s roster only because releasing him would result in a $7.6-million salary cap charge. With a salary of under $1-million for 2009, there is a strong possibility the team will pay a pro-rated portion of his salary for the year (and likely request he not attend at the team’s facilities) rather than release him. This exact scenario played out in the Falcons decision to retain Michael Vick on their roster for 2008. In addition, if the CBA is not extended and 2010 is an uncapped year, the team can release Stallworth in 2010 with no cap charge.
In essence, it appears the Browns have given up on Stallworth and if he plays in 2009, which seems unlikely, it will be with another team, requiring him to learn a team’s playbook in short order. If the Browns have given up on him, then you should too in your fantasy league.