Re-thinking the Redskins’ decision to re-sign London Fletcher

More than a month after free agency began, the Redskins and London Fletcher finally got a deal done.  I figured that after a month of negotiations, the money would be lower than initially expected.  I was wrong.  Per Jason LaCanfora:

This was a weird situation for the Redskins.  I think the world of London Fletcher.  London Fletcher is so much more than just a player.  He’s a leader.  And not just “a leader” that fans like to call a leader because we see him on TV doing one of those pre-game “fire up the troops” speeches.  He’s a true leader, by nothing more than the example he sets.  Fletcher hasn’t missed a single game in his entire 14 year career.  Including the playoffs, that’s 232 games.  Think about that.  A week ago, I put up the numbers for QB’s and how many games they’ve missed over their careers.  Only one had over 100 consecutive starts at QB (Eli Manning with 119).  And we’re talking about an inside linebacker here… a guy that’s taking on fullbacks in the hole, violently tackling running backs, and trying to avoid getting steamrolled by 320 lb. pulling guards. If you’re a 24 year old player and you’ve got a sore hammy, I’d have to imagine it would be pretty hard to look a guy like London Fletcher in the eye if you’re not doing everything you can to get back on the field.

Plus, (and of course this is kind of important too)… London Fletcher is still a good player.

But here’s the rub: Are the Redskins going to be realistic contenders to go to the Super Bowl this year?  I mean… There’s a lot to be excited about with Robert Griffin III coming to town, but we can all probably agree that the Skins aren’t getting the faintest of whiffs of New Orleans in February, right?  London Fletcher turns 37 in May.  He has at least one year left of NFL service, maybe two, but almost certainly not 3 or more.  I’ll allow you to connect the dots there.

Meanwhile, here is what some other ILB’s around the league signed for, with their contract details via NBC’s Rotoworld (in alphabetical order, with their respective ages when the season begins in parenthesis):

  • Dan Connor (26): Signed a two-year, $6.5 million contract. The deal included a $2.7 million signing bonus. 2012: $800,000, 2013: $3 million, 2014: Free Agent
  • David Hawthorne (27): Signed a five-year, $19 million contract. The deal included a $3.8 million signing bonus. 2012: $700,000, 2013: $1 million (+ $3 million roster bonus), 2014: $1 million (+ $1 million roster bonus), 2015: $2 million (+ $2.5 million roster bonus), 2016: $4 million, 2017: Free Agent
  • Curtis Lofton (26): Signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract. The deal contains $7.8 million guaranteed — a $5 million signing bonus and each of Lofton’s first three base salaries. Another $6 million is available through escalators. Lofton is eligible for annual $100,000 workout bonuses in years four and five. 2012: $700,000, 2013: $1.1 million (+ $5 million roster bonus), 2014: $1 million (+ $2.2 million roster bonus), 2015: $2.4 million (+ $4.5 million roster bonus), 2016: $5.4 million, 2017: $6 million (Voidable Year), 2018: Free Agent
  • Joe Mays (27): Signed a three-year, $12 million contract. The deal contains $4.5 million guaranteed, including a $500,000 signing bonus, all of Mays’ first-year salary, and $500,000 of his second-year salary. 2012: $3.5 million, 2013: $4 million, 2014: $3.5 million (+ $500,000 roster bonus), 2015: Free Agent
  • Jameel McClain (27): Signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract. The deal included a $3.6 million signing bonus. 2012: $700,000, 2013: $3 million, 2014: $3.2 million, 2015: Free Agent
  • Stephen Tulloch (27): Signed a five-year, $25.5 million contract. The deal contains $11.25 million guaranteed, including a $6.25 million signing bonus and all of Tulloch’s first two base salaries. 2012: $1.25 million, 2013: $3.5 million, 2014-2015: Under Contract, 2016: $5.5 million (+ $500,000 roster bonus), 2017: Free Agent

If you’ll notice, every LB on this list has a contract that is every bit as affordable as the contract London Fletcher just signed, and they’re all at least 10 years younger.

Would you rather be set up long term with a younger LB that can grow with the team and still be around when the team is ready to seriously compete, or are Fletcher’s short term leadership intangibles really that important?

I’m not really sure where I stand on this one, even with zero emotion invested.

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  53. Corry says:

    This is a good signing for Washington as the other posters have stated.

    I do wonder what role the impending cap penalty played in the decision making process for deciding on who to pursue. At the beginning of free agency a good number of those guys were thought to be seeking high value contracts which could have put them outside of Washington’s range. Of course now that free agency has played out, that isn’t the case. I also wonder if bringing back Fletcher wasn’t the goal all along and they were just waiting for the market to set his value.

    I also wonder if the other free agents just didn’t want to play for the ‘Skins.

  54. Euler.is.a.pimp says:

    If we had signed Dawkins to the a similar deal and you made this argument, I would tell you that it makes sense, but you can go screw yourself. I would suspect Redskins fans feel similarly (or at least should) about Fletcher. He means a lot to the fans and franchise, so I think it’s nice in certain situation to see the guy rewarded and able to stick around. It’s not like they passed on any elite talent at the position. He’ll probably be the best of the guys signed for one of the years in the 2 of the contract.

    1. Free Plax says:

      Good point on Dawkins, the Eagles thought they were getting younger with a guy who had room to grow with the team when they let Dawkins go and they have never been able to replace the guy. Meanwhile Dawkins goes to two more Pro Bowls with the Bronco’s, production the Ealges could have used at the safety spot. Sometimes it just better to stay with the Devil you know versus the one you don’t know.

  55. Jay Walker (GIB) says:

    He’s a fan favorite, a team leader, and a point of stability on a team that hasnt really seen stability in forever. He may be slightly overpaid as a football player, but as to what he actually brings to the team, i think its a fair contract.

  56. RogerPodacter says:

    i dont think age is much of a concern when the player is there on a short term contract. he fits the defensive scheme. he knows it. he knows the team, he knows the teammates, etc etc etc.

    is it a little bit too much money? sure, i think you can make the argument that he got a little more money that i would have wanted to pay him to play for my team. that said, i dont feel that the skins grossly overpaid for his services, either.

    do i think fletcher has 2 years left in him? he probably does. he might be on his way down, but i think he would still be serviceable for the next two years.

  57. DaCrock says:

    Fletcher’s short term leadership intangibles ARE that important. Just as they were in his mentoring of Perry Riley, who is developing into a very solid 3-4 inside linebacker under London’s tutelage. After the Redskins have paid London for 2 more years, I suspect they plan to void the contract–having paid him $10.75MM if LaCanfora is right about the structure of his deal (fair for both sides given what London has meant to the team but recognizing that he will then be 39).

    In an ideal world, I think the Skins hope to find London’s eventual replacement in the mid-rounds of this year’s draft, and allow him to learn under Fletcher for a couple of years before taking over. If it works out that way, they’d be spending LESS (he’d presumably still be playing under his rookie contract) and have a younger player than if they signed one of the guys you highlighted above–most of whom have not played in a 3-4.

  58. WeNeedLinemen says:

    It’s a difficult situation. It is a hell of a lot of money for a 37-years old linebacker and I wouldn’t have been critical if they had signed Lofton or Tulloch and allowed Fletcher to leave.

    That said, if Fletcher continues to perform as well as he did last year, I think he was the best player available. If anything, he seemed to play better last year than he had since he joined the ‘Skins. I thought he was one of the very best MLB’s in the league last year. He might well enter steep physical decline at any time but he showed no signs of age catching up with him last year, almost the reverse.

    Also, the reason they may have opted to keep him rather than bring in a younger guy probably factors in the need for veteran leadership. Fletcher is the exemplar of what Shanahan values, hard work and discipline. Shanahan has always been good at starting the players who practice the hardest, of picking players who earned their place, rather than starting whoever was drafted highest or paid the most.

    It was also perhaps needed to show that this is a franchise that now takes the retention of it’s current players more seriously. Cerrato and Snyder received a lot of criticism for spending huge sums on free agents from other teams, whilst failing to hold on to “home grown” players. Holding on to a fan and player favourite like Fletcher might bring dividends down the line when they have to resign Orakpo, Kerrigan and Riley.

  59. Vince says:

    I know little about Washington’s defense, so I’m not sure who would replace Fletcher. But like you said he brings leadership (which I value a lot) and is a good player. While no one expects the Redskins to win it all, they need to put out a competitive team and get their fan base excited.

    Not signing Fletcher on an already questionable defense we would be a mistake. If it was me, I’d keep Fletcher and fix the other holes on defense. Once the rest is stable, then you replace Fletcher.

  60. Roy says:

    London is a special player. They paid him. He deserves it.

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