In 2007 the Washington Redskins went into free agency signing London Fletcher filling a huge need at MLB. At the time Redskins fans understood London was a good player who was familiar with Gregg Williams from their time together with the Buffalo Bills. Fans were split on the move not knowing if they could trust the player choices of Williams after pushing Antonio Pierce out the door in 2004 and replacing him with Lemar Marshall. You could look up all the stats from 1998-2007 and see a 160 consecutive game streak, consistent high tackle numbers, and zero pro bowls. We had an idea what we were getting in London Fletcher but the next five years would prove Redskins fans had no idea.
London Fletcher stepped into Ashburn and instantly became the leader of the defense if not the team. Over the course of the season Fletcher quickly rose to being a fan favorite as he led a defense to ranking 8th in the league after finishing 31st in 2006. It didn’t take long to appreciate the passion, energy,and professionalism #59 brought to the field week in and week out.
The consecutive game streak continued and fans became determined to help London defeat the “pro bowl snub”. Fans organized on message boards to vote early and as many times as possible to help push London to his elusive first pro bowl birth who you can easily argue he should have earned before coming to DC. It took 3 years but London’s play on the field and the fans support finally resulted in the first of three consecutive pro bowl appearances since 2010.
This past offseason the Redskins had a decision to make on the 37-year-old MLB coming off 3 consecutive pro bowls, 224 consecutive games streak, and the unquestioned leader of the team. Roll the dice and bet on London to resist father time for a few more years or find a younger option. As the decision dragged out long into the offseason and the MLB free agent options drying up the Redskins fans took to supporting London again via twitter with the “#Re-Sign59″ campaign. The following weeks Redskins fans were consistent in their support like London was consistently playing on Sundays.
london Re-signed with the team for 2 years/$10,750,000 with a 3,500,000 signing bonus. On the surface that looks like a lot but the structure of the deal is pretty smart with a year 1 base of $1.75 and bonus of $1.75 making the 2012 cap hit 3.5 million. 2013 includes a $5.5 million dollar base salary with a $1.75 million dollar bonus. So what does that all mean, well it means that you could be seeing the last of London Fletcher in a Redskins uniform over the next 8 games.
It is often said that players in their mid thirties are crap shoots because you never know when father time will catch up with them. Coming off a strong 2011 London gave no indications he was close to being ran down by father time.
In 2011 London Fletcher is rated the eighth best ILB in the league. In 2011 London Fletcher played 1,033 defensive plays recording 113 solo tackles, 31 assists, and 14 missed tackles. In coverage He has been targeted 55 times allowing 33 receptions (60.0%) and 346 yards with 166 yards after catch over 16 games. Fletcher finished the year with grades of +11.8 overall, +4.2 coverage, and +6.3 defending the run (via www.profootballfocus.com).
Through 8 games in 2012 London Fletchers play has opened eyes and not in a good way. The leader of the defense has struggled in coverage vs Tight Ends and Running Backs. Struggled at times to make what use to be routine tackles in the open field. The sight of London getting run over and then later juked out by A.Bradshaw was a moment I thought I would never see. Question is was it a one time occurrence or the beginning of a trend.
In 2012 London Fletcher Is rated the 45th ILB in the league. Playing 551 snaps Fletch has recorded 44 solo tackles, 5 assists, and 14 missed tackles. In coverage He has been targeted 50 times allowing 35 receptions (70.0%) and 379 yards with 181 yards after catch over 8 games. Fletchers current grades are -11.7 overall, -1.9 coverage, and -6.4 defending the run (via www.profootballfocus.com).
To put that in perspective London has already tied his missed tackle mark from last season at 14 while allowing more passing yards in only 8 games. You can say he’s injured or the defense is not producing but those have never been excuses for Fletcher before. Part of Londons skill set that set him apart all these years is his ability to read and diagnose a play quickly while putting himself in position to make the play. This part of his game is still there and functioning at a high level it’s when he gets there we don’t see the same guy making the play we have grown accustomed to watching.
Hopefully London picks it up and closes out the 2012 season on a strong note proving he will be on the 2013 Redskins. Should the last 8 games mirror the first 8 , we could be watching the last games London Fletcher plays in not only a Redskins uniform but the NFL.