Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at email@example.com.
Could The Redskins’ Salary Cap Penalties Affect London Fletcher?
Mike Shanahan has said it. Jim Haslett, too.
And if it wasn’t enough for the Washington Redskins’ head coach and defensive coordinator to express their desires to have London Fletcher return to the team, general manager Bruce Allen gave his emphatic support Saturday night, too.
“[We’ve] had discussions with his agent over the last month or two and we’ll see what happens,” Allen said. “I’m not going to hide behind that fact that we love London. We hope he’s a Redskin.”
That being said, what’s taking so long? Free agency began Tuesday at 4 p.m., and several marquee players have already agreed to terms with new teams. Fletcher, an inside linebacker, led the league with 166 tackles in 2011 – the most he’s had in a single season since the NFL began tracking the stat officially in 2001 – and also intercepted two passes and forced three fumbles.
One would think the market for Fletcher, on stats alone, would be competitive. But the linebacker will be 37 in May and is set to begin his 15th season, though he has never been significantly injured and has not missed a game since entering the league with St. Louis in 1998.
Because he finished last season with the Redskins, he and the team have been able to negotiate a new contract through the start of free agency. According to multiple reports, the team and Fletcher have been in such discussions. His agent has not returned messages asking to speak about Fletcher, and attempts to reach Fletcher have been unsuccessful.
Fletcher signed a five-year, $17 million contract with Buffalo in 2002, and when his time with the Bills was up, he agreed to a five-year, $25 million deal with the Redskins in 2007.
What he can expect to make on the market this time out is unclear, though his age will play a factor. It’s unlikely Fletcher will be able to pull in another five-year deal – what are the chances he could play until he’s 41? – and may have to settle for a two- or three-year contract.
Potentially making things more difficult for the Redskins is the recent cap penalties assessed to the team by the league. Rather than having in excess of $35 million available when the league year started on Tuesday, the team instead had approximately half that to work with.
That means Fletcher, who would have likely signed a front-loaded contract from the Redskins, could find himself squeezed. A team would not pay a player big money at the end of his deal when he’s older; no player would accept such a contract from a team knowing it makes him a cap liability in the future.
Still, several Redskins players have taken to Twitter to show their support for their teammate. Adam Carriker, who agreed to a four-year, $20 million contract on Tuesday, decided that was a good opportunity to get Fletcher out to Redskins Park in Ashburn.
“Why don’t you meet me at Redskins Park tomorrow? You know, so we can both sign our contracts!” wrote Carriker, who later also asked linebacker Lorenzo Alexander to call Fletcher.
Cornerback Josh Wilson, who received a recruiting pitch from Fletcher a year ago before agreeing to play for the Redskins, turned the tables on Fletcher as well.
“Hey remember when [you] called me?” Wilson wrote. “Now I’m callin’ you … WE NEED YA!”
Fletcher, who has expressed an interest in returning in the past, re-tweeted Wilson’s message without comment.