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London Fletcher Announces He Will Be Returning To Redskins

By ZAC BOYER | zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

The prolonged and public campaign by the Washington Redskins to sign London Fletcher to a new contract ended on Friday when the veteran linebacker agreed to return to the team.

Fletcher

Fletcher, who will turn 37 next month, announced the news on Twitter, writing “Redskins fans your captain is back!” shortly before 6 p.m. A team source confirmed that Fletcher had agreed in principle to a new contract, but that he had not yet officially signed anything.

“Excited about returning to the Skins!” Fletcher wrote. “The support I’ve received from the fans didn’t go unnoticed!”

Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, general manager Bruce Allen and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett all have expressed their affinity for re-signing Fletcher, an unrestricted free agent who had a league-high 166 tackles last season and earned his third consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl.

Allen reiterated his support for bringing Fletcher back in mid-March by saying “we love London” and “we hope he’s a Redskin” when asked about the status of negotiations at the time. Shanahan again made it clear at the owners’ meetings in late March that re-signing Fletcher was a priority, and several teammates posted public messages on Twitter supporting his return.

The move now allows Fletcher, in Washington for the past five seasons, to be a part of the team’s off-season workouts, which begin at Redskins Park on Monday.

Bringing Fletcher back was a natural fit and always seemed to be in the Redskins’ plans. The team did not sign another linebacker in the first month of free agency, and Fletcher never seriously entertained any outside offers.

The only hold-up was in how Fletcher’s contract would eventually be structured. The team was penalized $36 million in salary cap space by the league on the eve of free agency March 13 for circumventing spending recommendations two years ago, leaving it significantly less money to spend.

Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander made public on several occasions his disdain for the league’s sanctions, citing them as a direct reason why negotiations with Fletcher dragged on. With limited salary cap space immediately available, the team assumedly agreed to terms on a back-loaded contract – something typically considered dangerous with an aging player.

But Fletcher has been the league’s most durable player since entering the league in 1998, when he went undrafted out of John Carroll, a Division III college in suburban Cleveland, and has played in 224 consecutive games – every one he’s been available for – since he signed with St. Louis.

The 5-foot-10, 245-pounder played his first four seasons with the Rams and next five with Buffalo before agreeing to a five-year, $25 million deal with Washington in 2007.

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