Sheldon Richardson Suspended Four Games

1:45pm: Richardson was suspended for marijuana use, a source tells Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). There are several stages in the league’s policy for marijuana use before a four-game suspension is handed down, which suggests that this isn’t Richardson’s first positive test.

1:19pm: The Jets defensive line, considered one of the very best in the NFL, took a hit today as the league announced Sheldon Richardson has been suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, tweets Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. In a statement released via the Jets, Richardson issued an apology for violating NFL rules.

“I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans,” Richardson said (link via Garafolo). “However, words aren’t enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don’t want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won’t be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I’m able to return to the field.”

Richardson, 24, had been expected to start on the Jets’ defensive line alongside nose tackle Damon Harrison and standout defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. Now that Richardson will miss the first month of the 2015 season, it opens the door for sixth overall pick Leonard Williams to step into the starting lineup, at least temporarily, though we’ll have to see how things play out in training camp under new head coach Todd Bowles.

Richardson’s suspension could also provide Wilkerson some additional leverage in his extension talks with the Jets. The two sides haven’t much made progress toward negotiating a a new contract, and while I wouldn’t expect Richardson’s four-game ban to make a huge impact on those discussions, it will be another factor for the team to consider. After all, if Richardson were to violate the substance abuse policy again in the future, he’d be facing an even lengthier suspension.

Because Richardson’s suspension is unpaid, he’ll lose four of his 17 weekly checks for the 2015 season. The former 13th overall pick had been in line for a $1.319MM base salary, so he figures to forfeit about $310K of that amount. As Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap details, Richardson will also have to return nearly $335K in bonus money.

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