The Redskins could be going into free agency looking for help at inside linebacker.
They had four ILB’s on the roster last year and only one of them is under contract for 2012. Perry Riley, who was promoted into the starting job midway through last season, is entering the third year of his four-year rookie contract he signed as a fourth-round pick out of LSU.
Starter and team captain London Fletcher and reserves Keyaron Fox and Rocky McIntosh are all unrestricted free agents.
It seems that the status McIntosh is clear. It is unlikely that he will be back. He was benched in favor of Riley and he played just 17 snaps in four games over the last half of the season. The former second-round draft pick is 29 and he likely will try to find a starting job elsewhere.
Fox just turned 30 and he played just 51 defensive snaps all year. He played fairly well in that limited action and it would not be surprising if he comes back.
The situation with Fletcher is getting interesting. Mike Shanahan, Bruce Allen, and Jim Haslett have all said at various times that getting Fletcher back is a priority. Fletcher has said that he wants to come back. But here we are less than two weeks prior to the start of free agency and the two-time Pro Bowl linebacker has not yet signed.
And the Redskins are dealing with representation for Fletcher. He recently fired Drew Rosenhaus as his agent and brought in Ben Dogra. That change didn’t send negotiations back to square one but it certainly didn’t help matters.
Two weeks is an eternity in a business where many deals are done right at the deadline so there is plenty of time for the Redskins to get Fletcher in the fold. But the word is that Fletcher isn’t going to give a hometown discount on what is likely to be his last contract.
It is possible that there will not be an agreement before the opening of free agency. Fletcher could then get offers from other teams and at that point, anything could happen.
“I’d love to go back to Washington, but obviously it’s a business,” Fletcher said on SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this week. “It’ll take some time to get done but we both want to get a deal done. We’ll see what happens.”
If he does leave, the Redskins will have to scramble to find a starter. They could turn to the draft but the position is difficult to learn and free agency may be the only way to go.
There is a fairly deep class of young, potential starters at inside linebacker in free agency including Dan Connor of the Panthers, Curtis Lofton of the Falcons, David Hawthorne of Seattle, and Stephen Tulloch of the Lions, among others.
If Fletcher does hit free agency, timing will become critical. How long do the Redskins let Fletcher shop around before making a serious bid to bring in his replacement? How many of the top free agents would even seriously entertain a bid by the Redskins as long as Fletcher, who everyone knows is their top choice, is still out there.
There is still a very good chance that the Redskins will get Fletcher signed and the team will start searching for someone to replace him in 2014 or 2015, not starting now.