The announcement that the Washington Redskins have re-signed inside linebacker London Fletcher this evening was a bit of a surprise but a welcome one for Redskins fans. Fletcher, 36, was the NFL’s leading tackler in 2011 and is clearly the leader of the Redskins emerging defense In terms of production, cohesion and leadership, Fletcher was someone the Redskins desperately needed to bring back if at all possible.
This signing was surprising for only one reason – Washington is in dire straits when it comes to the cap. Fletcher’s deal is for two years according to the Washington Times but at the moment there’s no indication as to how much he’s being paid. At a guess, there’s likely to be maybe $6-7 million paid upfront but this is no big deal given that it doesn’t impact the cap. The contract number itself is the concern – too big and it really hurts the cap, too small and Fletcher wouldn’t accept because it’s too easy for the team to cut him later. The number for 2012 could be anywhere from $2.5-4 million.
No matter what the number, this move indicates that the Redskins are preparing to either cut or restructure the contracts of some players. As of the point Washington signed Tanard Jackson earlier today, the cap number stood at approximately $6.6 million. At this time, it is expected that the cost of the rookies taken in the draft will be around $6.5-7.5 million with Robert Griffin III taking up about $4 million of that. Even at the low end of estimates on London Fletcher’s cap number, this would leave the Redskins at least $2 million short unless they traded every pick they had aside from #2 overall.
So now we look at cap casualties. The first candidate here is right tackle Jammal Brown. Brown hasn’t been able to stay healthy since being traded from the New Orleans Saints in 2010 and it is highly likely Washington drafts a new right tackle. Brown’s cap number is about $5 million so they could get some instant relief by cutting him. Then there is tight end Chris Cooley who’s cap number is approximately $5.8 million and wide receiver Santana Moss at $6.3 million. However, in the case of these veteran receivers they are more likely to be restructured rather than cut given their ability to help the team by providing solid if unspectacular production.
There is also a case for other players restructuring current contracts. Prime among these is cornerback DeAngelo Hall who has the biggest cap number on the team at $8.3 million. Hall is paid like a number 1 corner but has failed to live up to his pay grade. There was talk he might be cut earlier in the season but it appears he may survive due to the lack of depth in the Redskins secondary. Next on the list is left tackle Trent Williams who has the second highest cap number at $6.6 million. Due to his contract being from the old CBA, Williams will need to co-operate should the Redskins choose to restructure him as at that number his contract is no longer acceptable for an offensive lineman still learning his craft.
There will be a lot of people in Washington relieved that London Fletcher has been re-signed – but not everyone.