While the offseason has few weeks to go, it’s safe to say that offseason personnel and coaching moves are pretty much over. There might be a minor trade or a waiver wire pickup here or there but the cake is mostly baked.
So before training camp starts, let’s take a look back at the five biggest moves of the offseason. We’ll count them down in order of how important they were. Earlier, we looked at the hiring of Raheem Morris and the roster decisions made at the start of free agency and the signings of wide receivers Pierre Garçon and Josh Morgan. Today we examine the re-signing of London Fletcher.
The Redskins are on a youth movement. In 2009 they were the oldest team in the league. By putting a greater emphasis on the draft and by signing free agents who are in their primes they have become younger. When the final cuts are made on Sept. 1 the team should have an average age of about 27, which is near the NFL average.
However, they had no interest in going young at one particular position. London Fletcher became a free agent in March but the team had let it be known as early as last season that they wanted to re-sign the 37-year-old Pro Bowl inside linebacker. Fletcher indicated that he would like to return but there were hints that the money would need to be right.
For their part, the Redskins were not going to lowball Fletcher but, as has been their practice since Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen arrived in Ashburn in 2010, they weren’t going to bid against themselves for their services.
As the March 13 start of free agency approached, the concern among Redskins fans that the team might not bring back Fletcher started to grow. When the team’s salary cap space was chopped by $18 million when the NFL imposed a cap penalty on the team, anxious turned to panic as many wondered if the Redskins would have enough money to get Fletcher back in the fold.
Those fears escalated when the Redskins dropped a sizeable contract on wide receiver Pierre Garçon and spent some more on receiver Josh Morgan. A Twitter campaign using the hashtag #resign59 was launched to try to use popular sentiment to push the Redskins into making a deal with Fletcher.
Meanwhile, there seemed to be little panic at Redskins Park or in Fletcher’s camp. Both sides waited patiently for the market at middle linebacker to be set. There were no reported visits by free agent inside linebackers to the Redskins, with the exception of one by ex-Giant Jonathan Goff not to long before Fletcher eventually agreed to terms. If Fletcher visited another team, it was kept very, very quiet.
It took a while for the market to set itself. It wasn’t until late March and early April that deals came in for inside linebackers David Hawthorne (Seahawks to Saints for 5 years, $19 million) Stephen Tulloch (staying with the Lions for 5/$25.5) and Curtis Lofton (Falcons to Saints for 5/$27.5).
Those other three players are all younger than Fletcher but they don’t have his credentials as a three-time Pro Bowl performer (plus several other seasons where he played at a high level but was snubbed) and unquestioned team leader. It seemed reasonable to pay him according to the market set by Hawthorne, Tulloch, and Lofton, which was around $5 million per year.
And, ultimately, they did. On April 13, just a few days before the start of the team’s offseason workouts, Fletcher announced on his Twitter feed that he was back with the Redskins. One of the least contentious contract disputes in memory came to a close. The deal is for $10.75 million over two years.
The Redskins will have Fletcher through the 2013 season after which he presumably will retire. The Redskins drafted his heir apparent, Keenan Robinson, and so a smooth transition could be in the offing.