London Fletcher of the Redskins Was Robbed of a Shot at the Pro Bowl

Anthony BrownCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2009

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 08:  London Fletcher #59 of the Washington Redskins against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on November 8, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It's hardly worth a headline anymore. Washington's London Fletcher-Baker was snubbed, as he always is, for the 2010 NFL Pro Bowl.

The NFL named San Francisco's Patrick Willis and New Orleans' Jonathan Vilma as the starting and reserve inside linebackers for the game to be played in Miami January 31, 2010.

Willis was the No. 1 tackler in the NFL, 147 total with one game left in the season. Fletcher is tied with Carolina's Jon Beason for No. 2. Each have 134 total tackles.

Vilma (110 tackles) is an outstanding linebacker whose case was helped by New Orleans' 13-2 record and by the Saint's high-powered offense.

Fletcher played for the lowly Redskins whose only impact on the post-season was as minor speed bumps for playoff-bound teams.

Stats aren't everything, but Fletcher's value to his team surely rivals Vilma's to the Saints. Redskins' standout rookie Brian Orakpo credits Fletcher for helping him make the jump as a pro player.

Orakpo was named to the Pro Bowl as an outside linebacker. The Redskins took heat from fans for playing Orakpo at linebacker instead of right defensive end, his position while in college.  

Orakpo at linebacker was a move both desperate and brilliant by the Skins. Desperate because Washington's front office did not have a plan to backfill LB Marcus Washington. Chris Wilson and other depth players couldn't fill the role. Orakpo had to work out there or the Skins were cooked. (Oh, wait. They were cooked anyway.)

Brilliant because Washington's next coach might install the 3-4 defensive alignment. Orakpo's year as part-time linebacker and defensive end sets him up nicely for a system where the outside linebacker fills both roles. Think "DeMarcus Ware."

In drafting Orakpo, Washington subscribed to the best-player-available theory, the approach favored by former Redskin executive Vinny Cerrato. I won't argue with that approach, both because Orakpo vindicated the choice and because well selected picks average up a team's talent.

Snyderrato applied the best available approach to veteran free agents and to trades. That approach often leads to disappointment. Free agents should be signed for need.

Albert Haynesworth was the best free agent talent at any position available last offseason. He was not what the Redskins needed. His $7 million 2009 cap hit would have covered the two or three decent offensive linemen who should have been signed over the past three seasons. 

Haynesworth had a decent year for the Skins. His presence helped Orakpo and DE Andre Carter (also snubbed for the Pro Bowl despite 11 sacks) reach new levels of performance.

Fans are down on Haynesworth these days. It's unsettling to see your high-profile signee gassed on the field so often. I get that, but we fans need to lighten up. It's tough even for elite athletes to move 350 pounds around. If the big man needs a break, let him take it.

Fletcher was the perfect free agent signing. He filled a specific roster hole at middle linebacker. He fit Gregg Williams' defensive scheme. Fletcher played in Williams' system in Buffalo, and he was an affordable hire with a five year $25 million contract. Player, scheme, and contract makes Fletcher the picture of an ideal free agent.  

Typical of the Redskins, Washington structured Fletcher's contract so that he had a $4.3 million cap hit this year and a whopping $7 million hit in 2010.

If only London Fletcher played offensive tackle, he might have made the Pro bowl.