Marcus Washington's release by the Washington Redskins on Friday didn't come as a surprise given his $4.5 million base salary and series of injuries beginning in December 2006. But that didn't make the move any easier.
"It's going to be different without Marcus - not just in the linebacker room, but for the whole defense," said H.B. Blades, who started four games when Washington was hurt last season and inherits his job for now. "He was always upbeat, no matter what was happening. None of the rest of us are that boisterous."
Washington, who arrived as a free agent from Indianapolis in 2004, recorded 107 tackles and 4.5 sacks that season en route to his lone Pro Bowl appearance. He posted 93 tackles and 7.5 sacks in 2005. The following year, Washington suffered a hip injury and missed the final two games with a sprained knee. Injuries to his ankle, elbow, hip, shoulder and hamstring followed the past two seasons as Washington, 31, totaled just 92 tackles and five sacks.
Washington's departure might not be the last this month from the Redskins' strong free agent class of 2004. The Washington Examiner reported that the Redskins will void the final two years of soon-to-be 36-year-old defensive end Phillip Daniels' contract. Shawn Springs, about to turn 34, may become a victim of his $8.483 million salary cap cost if the club can retain fellow cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Even defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, 32, isn't sure to remain given his drop in production and frequent injuries.
"We've had a really good group, a group that will be remembered for a while around here," Washington said in December.
The former Auburn standout had been prescient in September about what was coming Friday, a week before the Redskins have to be under the $123 million cap.
"Sooner or later, [age] is going to catch up with you," he said. "As a competitor, you hate to admit that. You try to fight that off as long as you can. It's hard to face that mortality."
The Redskins likely will have to find Washington's replacement in free agency. Baltimore's Bart Scott, Alexandria native Eric Barton of the New York Jets, Buffalo's Angelo Crowell and Miami's Channing Crowder are possible replacements. So is Jacksonville's Mike Peterson, although he turns 33 this season. Atlanta's Keith Brooking will be 34, so teammate Michael Boley - who will turn 27 in August - might make more sense, especially with Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher turning 34 in May.
The draft is also a possibility, but the Redskins figure to use their top pick on a lineman and have only one other choice until the fifth round. Blades said he believes the job should be his.
"Marcus gave me a lot of tips that have helped me get more comfortable at the [strong side]," he said. "This is my opportunity, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to show the Redskins that I should be the starter."
Note: Safety Reed Doughty, who opened 2008 as a starter, won't be tendered, allowing the restricted free agent to pursue other offers beginning Friday. Doughty missed the final 12 games with a back injury that required surgery. Rookie Chris Horton played well in his place. He led the team with three interceptions and ranked third with 76 tackles.
• Staff writer Ryan O'Halloran contributed to this article.