Questions abound for Cardinals at inside linebacker

With Karlos Dansby gone and Daryl Washington facing anorher potential suspension, do the Cardinals need to draft an inside linebacker?

Kevin Minter, a second-round draft choice out of LSU in 2013, will get first shot at replacing Karlos Dansby in the Cardinals' starting defense.

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Kevin Minter will be given every possible chance to replace Karlos Dansby as one of the Cardinals' two starting inside linebackers. But that doesn't mean he has already been anointed.

"I'm not ready to say he's the guy yet," defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. "He's got to prove it in pads."

What if Minter isn't ready to step out from Danby's lengthy shadow? And what if the Cardinals' other inside linebacker, Daryl Washington, ends up getting suspended by the league after being sentenced to one year of supervised probation for his guilty plea to a charge that he assaulted a former girlfriend, who is also the mother of his daughter?

Four years ago, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games (later cut to four) following two allegations of sexual assault for which he was never even arrested or charged with a crime. In that light, what will NFL commissioner Roger Goodell do with a player who has been charged and sentenced -- a player who was previously suspended four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy?

Are the Cardinals prepared to enter the season with Minter and perhaps Lorenzo Alexander filling in as starters, while inexperienced backups Kenny Demens and JoJo Dickson provide the only depth? Will they add depth to this thin position in free agency? Or will they draft a player?

"We're just going to let Daryl's situation ride out. I can't control that if doesn'€™t work out for us," Bowles said. "You're in this game long enough you're going to see a lot of ebbs and flows, so you have to be prepared one way or the other."

It would be helpful if the Cardinals could wait to see what Minter shows them in OTAs and mini-camp. But they aren't afforded that luxury since the NFL Draft runs May 8-10. 

In a perfect world, Minter will prove he's ready, Washington will escape further punishment and the Cards can evaluate their depth needs as training camp approaches, possible adding a veteran free agent.

But if they decide they need to go the other route, here is a look at some of the top inside linebackers available in the draft.

Given the Cardinals' other, more pressing needs, the team would probably prefer not to use a high pick at this position, but that doesn't mean they won't look for someone in the middle to late rounds. And if Alabama's C.J. Mosley is still around when the Cards pick at No. 20, well, that would be a tough player to pass on, even if he creates a logjam at the position with Washington and Minter.

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C.J. Mosley of Alabama is generally regarded as the top inside linebacker prospect available in next week's draft.

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1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama 6-2 234
2. Chris Borland, Wisconsin 6-0 248
3. Shayne Skov, Stanford 6-2 245
4. Christian Jones, Florida State 6-3 240
5. Preston Brown, Louisville 6-1 251
6. Max Bullough, Michigan State 6-4 249
7. Lamin Barrow, LSU 6-1 237
8. Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut 6-2 246
9. Avery Williamson, Kentucky 6-1 246
10. Brock Coyle, Montana, 6-1 235

Mike Mayock,

1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama
2. Chris Borland, Wisconsin
3. Preston Brown, Louisville
4. Max Bullough, Michigan State
5. Shayne Skov, Stanford

1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama
2. Chris Borland, Wisconsin
3. Christian Jones, Florida State
4. Carl Bradford, Arizona State 6-1 243
5. Shayne Skov, Stanford
6. Lamin Barrow, LSU
7. Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut
8. Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA 6-4 230
9. Khairi Fortt, California 6-2 248
10. Max Bullough, Michigan State