The Washington Redskins have kept the heart of their defense beating by agreeing with inside linebacker and team captain London Fletcher on a new two-year contract Friday, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
It ensures Fletcher is able to join the team for the start of its offseason conditioning program on Monday. Financial terms of the deal were not immediately known.
Fletcher, who will turn 37 next month, has not slowed in the twilight of his career. He has appeared in each of the last three Pro Bowls. He led the NFL in tackles last season with a career-high 166, and he forced three fumbles, had two interceptions and 1.5 sacks.
The most successful free agent signing of owner Daniel Snyder’s 13-year tenure has played in a remarkable 224 consecutive games. He is tied with Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber for the league’s longest active streak.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen for months have been open about their desire to re-sign Fletcher. Not only has he led the team in tackles in each of his five seasons in Washington, but he is the team’s most respected locker room leader.
Fletcher’s mental acumen complements his physical prowess. He reliably adjusts the defense when necessary after breaking the huddle.
“London is a team leader, a great player, and we want him back,” Shanahan said on March 28.
Why it took Fletcher so long to re-sign, then, is uncertain. The Redskins on the eve of unrestricted free agency in March were penalized $18 million in 2012 salary cap space by the league as part of a $36 million penalty spanning two seasons. Also, the league-wide market for inside linebackers has been relatively tepid this offseason.
Retaining Fletcher, though, keeps the strength of the Redskins‘ defense intact. Production by the front seven is a major reason why the defense in 2011 improved to 17th in the NFL in yards per play from 30th in Shanahan’s first season.
“Excited about returning to the Skins!” Fletcher tweeted. “The support I’ve received from the fans didn’t go unnoticed!”