Free-agent safety T.J. McDonald has encountered a major setback in his search for a new team.
McDonald has been suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2016 regular season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse, the league announced Wednesday.
The discipline stems from a May, 2016 arrest which led to a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of drugs.
He pleaded guilty in January according to a spokesman with the L.A. City’s Attorney Office. McDonald was sentenced to the following: 36 months of summary probation, $390 fine plus penalty assessments, a three-month alcohol program (AB541), 200 hours of court approved community service, and 18 narcotic anonymous classes.
McDonald, 26, started all 53 games he has appeared in since the Rams selected him with the No. 71 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Placing No. 18 on Around The NFL’s list of the Top 101 free agents, he’s the third-highest ranked player remaining on the open market.
The suspension explains McDonald’s cold market and will end up costing him money. The question now is whether the clarification of his 2017 status could be the impetus he needs to sign an incentive-laden, prove-it contract with a team in need of safety help.