As holes continue to be filled with free agency signings here at Redskins Park, the murmur from the fans continues to revolve around the status of free agent linebacker London Fletcher.
When Fletcher first signed in Washington five years ago, he was widely believed to be making the final stop of his dazzling career, and would surely be retired by time his contract expired at age 36. But in that span of time, Fletcher has switched from the middle linebacker to a 3-4 inside linebacker, and raised his level of play to epic proportions.
Fletcher is a fan favorite, and rightly so. With his style of play and work ethic, he’s a natural leader, and rightly so. He deserves to sign what is presumably his final contract at a fair market rate, and rightly so.
But how is a team, player or agent supposed to gauge a fair market contract for a 36-year-old who led the league in tackles? Fortunately, that answer is way out of my department, but there has been mutual interest expressed in a reunion.
Fletcher recently sat down with the NFL.com’s Rich Eisen Podcast to discuss, among other things, his current free agent status. If anyone is worried about Fletcher running low on drive or desire, have a gander at these quotes:
Physically, I can do this for another three-to-four years. That’s just how I feel, that’s just I’m wired. I love being out there on Sundays, I love being in there with my teammates and the preparation that goes into competing on Sundays. Y’know, the studying, getting your body right–I love that part of it.
There’s nowhere else that you can get that type of competition. There are other places you can go to make money, but the camaraderie that the locker room builds, that unity that you have with a group, being out there in front of 80,000-90,000 fans; there’s no other place that you can get that.
This interview was conducted several days before the start of free agency, and Fletcher reiterated that he would be open to offers from other teams if he made it to free agency. He did point out, however, that the door to Washington was still wide open:
No that’s not a closed door at all. I would love to go back to Washington.
Eisen compared Fletcher’s numbers to the other iconic linebacker of this generation, in the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Lewis. Since Fletcher entered the league in 1998, the two have posted nearly identical numbers, with Fletcher gaining the edge in some important categories:
Eisen: “Since coming into the league in 1998, you have 80 more tackles than Ray, the same number of sacks, one more forced fumble, he has a few more picks than you, and you’ve got him by a safety. And that is a future, first-ballot, lock Hall of Famer.”
Fletcher: 1,546 tackles, 34 sacks, 17 forced fumbles, 18 interceptions, safety, 208 games started
Lewis: 1,466 tackles, 34 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, 29 interceptions, 192 games started.
Granted, Lewis has been playing for two years longer, but these are clearly two players born of a like-mind, and having very special careers at the linebacker position.
If things work out with the Redskins, they’ll continue their respective careers separated by 40 miles on I-95.