It looks as though London Fletcher is buying himself more time to add to a Hall of Fame résumé. The veteran linebacker has told David Elfin of 106.7 the Fan in D.C. that he's begun preparing for a 16th season in the NFL.
While nobody will suggest that the 37-year-old Fletcher is the same player he used to be, he's still an extremely valuable piece to Washington's puzzle. Not only is he a key leader on defense and a role model within the locker room, but Fletcher is still the best option the 'Skins have for that inside linebacker spot next to Perry Riley.
It concerns me a bit that, according to Pro Football Focus, only one player in the NFL (Tennessee's Michael Griffin) missed more tackles than Fletcher did in 2012. He'll turn 38 this spring and is, according to Elfin, undergoing two separate surgical procedures this month.
With that being said, he also made the Pro Bowl for the fourth straight year and was a second-team All-Pro. It's becoming apparent that the Redskins won't likely succeed at delaying free agency by way of an injunction and won't likely get any of their money back from the league after it docked them $36 million over the last two years for cap shadiness in 2010.
The Redskins can't afford a replacement right now. With every dollar left in the coffers, they have to concern themselves with that secondary, with the right tackle position being a secondary concern and linebacker barely registering on radar.
Who will replace London Fletcher in 2014?
Lorenzo Alexander is slated to become a free agent and could be paid well after a Pro Bowl campaign. They'd also be smart to at least attempt to keep key contributors Kory Lichtensteiger, Cedric Griffin and Fred Davis on the roster.
With all of that on the table, there's no room to sign a veteran to replace Fletcher right now. He is, by far, the best option they've got.
The fact Fletcher hinted at a possible retirement this offseason indicates he won't likely stick around much longer, though. And besides, his skills are diminishing. The 'Skins absolutely have to view this as his last season in burgundy. They'll have more money to spend next offseason, but they should be making an effort right now to determine if 2013 fourth-round pick Keenan Robinson could be the next Fletcher.
The search for a replacement should already be underway. The Redskins have to take full advantage of the extra year Fletcher has given them.