By Rich Tandler
With a week and a half to go before free agency starts, the Redskins and London Fletcher still have not agreed on a contract. As far as we know, it wouldn’t be accurate to say they are at an impasse and ten days is plenty of time to get a deal done.
But, as noted here yesterday, the Redskins would be in a very tough spot if Fletcher hit the free agent market on March 13. Would they wait it out while Fletcher shopped his services around the league? Or, since they would be in need of an immediate starter if Fletcher went elsewhere, would they immediately start and aggressive hunt for a top free agent linebacker?
One option the Redskins have at their disposal would remove the uncertainty immediately.
They could put the franchise tag on London Fletcher.
Most have assumed that the Redskins would put the tag on tight end Fred Davis. But the conventional wisdom also was that Fletcher would quickly come to a contract agreement that would let him finish his NFL career in Washington. As they have yet to formally apply the tag to Davis, they could slap it on Fletcher.
The tag would get Fletcher a one-year guaranteed salary of about $9 million. It is believed that he is looking for a contract that would pay him between $6 and $8 million a year so there is no reason to think that he would be unhappy with the money. Fletcher might not appreciate not getting the opportunity to shop his services around the league but the salary likely would sooth those feelings.
The Redskins probably were planning on absorbing a good deal of the cap hit for Fletcher’s new deal in 2012 anyway so the $9 million cap hit they would have to absorb would not throw off their fiscal planning all that much.
They would run the risk of losing Davis, the team’s best pass-catching threat, since the tag can only be applied to one player. But perhaps his four-game suspension at the end of last year would deter bidders to the point where the Redskins could get a very team-friendly deal. And if all else fails the Redskins do have a former Pro Bowl tight end in Chris Cooley who, assuming his knee is healthy, can still deliver solid productivity.
It seems unlikely that Fletcher will end up getting tagged. But until Davis or someone else is designated the franchise player it is a possibility if the Redskins don’t sign Fletcher between now and Monday, the deadline for players to be tagged.