For the better part of the last 15 years, the Washington Redskins have earned the reputation of offseason champions for their spendthrift ways when free agency rolls around. In the past two seasons under Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen, the team has been more cautious with their spending—signing players for their needs rather than Dan Snyder's wants.
In spite of the sound decisions being made this offseason, the ongoing contract negotiations with London Fletcher highlight the failure to take care of their own players before pursuing others.
Fletcher remaining unsigned by the team may be as simple as the cap penalties suffered due to front-loading contracts during the uncapped year. If you consider that as the only factor in the matter, you can't really blame the Redskins for not having the money to properly compensate Fletcher for his continued service.
The NFL penalized them for going against their wishes, for not actually breaking any rules.
However you want to word it, the Redskins don't have the money to pay Fletcher what he wants or deserves. There is some degree of pigheadedness to Washington's failure to come to terms with Fletcher.
One must wonder why the team did not put Fletcher's contract negotiations higher on their list of priorities. In the grand scheme, it is easier to re-sign players than it is to sign players from other teams because you're familiar with their work and what they can offer.
The fact that the Redskins spent close to $50 million on Pierre Garçon, but couldn't fast-track Fletcher's return is unsettling.
Fletcher is not the first player the Redskins have failed to prioritize—merely the latest. The team was unwilling to sign linebacker Antonio Pierce to a big contract after the 2004 season when he started all 16 games and finished with 112 tackles, two interceptions and a touchdown.
Ryan Clark, Carlos Rogers and even Brad Johnson...the list of players the Redskins have disrespected is littered with names that have gone on to bigger and better things.
Fletcher isn't exactly in his prime anymore, but his leadership and experience would be sorely missed if the Redskins were unable to bring him back for the coming season. It may be the last contract of his career, but he has done enough to earn a little more respect from the Redskins' front office.
The fact that no other teams have taken a risk on Fletcher at this point in his career does not help the Redskins very much. They can interpret the lack of interest as a lack of value and low-ball Fletcher with their offer.
When it comes to Fletcher, the second all-time leading tackler in recorded NFL history behind Ray Lewis, a franchise as bereft of legitimacy and credibility as the Washington Redskins cannot afford to drag their feet in re-signing him.
Fletcher isn't some one-hit wonder who is looking for a huge deal to live in comfort for the rest of his career. He is a class act looking for the last contract of his career—the deal that will support him and his family for the rest of his life.
The Redskins are merely treating Fletcher like the former and making themselves look incompetent in the process.
If the Redskins can't find a way to bring Fletcher back, it will serve as further proof that their recent positive movement is just as empty as their previous attempts to rebuild the franchise. They don't have a contingency plan for life without Fletcher and that should scare the team, as well as fans when the time comes for their younger players to be re-signed.
In some cases, it is acceptable to let an aging player seek his fortunes elsewhere. In this case, the least the Redskins can do is give Fletcher the respect he has earned and let him finish his career in burgundy and gold.
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