What happens if Fletcher is gone?

What happens if Fletcher is gone?
March 1, 2013, 2:30 pm
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Is Shanahan growing impatient with Fletcher?

Is London Fletcher on the way out?

The Redskins’ captain has said on a few occasions that he is still deciding whether or not he is going to be back in 2011. But is Mike Shanahan going to make the decision for him?

Shanahan talked to Larry Michael while at the NFL Combine last week. The interviews were released this week and, as Tarik El-Bashir notes here, the Redskins coach indicated that the team is prepared to move along without Fletcher, who has been in the NFL for 15 seasons and with the Redskins since 2007.

In fact, Shanahan indicated that he thinks that Fletcher may already have decided to hang up his cleats. “If you’re thinking about retiring, you’re probably already retired,” he said.

Everyone has known that the Redskins were in a cap squeeze but the general thinking among insiders and analysts has been that the team would find a way to hang on to Fletcher despite his $5.5 million salary and total $6.2 million cap number.

The league announced that the 2013 salary cap would be a higher-than-expected $123 million. That still leaves the Redskins, who are laboring under an $18 million salary cap penalty imposed by the league a year ago (the second half of a $36 million hit), an estimated $3 million over the cap.

If Fletcher retires, the team will get a net cap savings of $3.4 million. The $5.5 million in salary savings could be offset by an acceleration of $2.8 million in signing bonus.

Who would replace Fletcher? The Redskins drafted Keenan Robinson in he fourth round last year as Fletcher’s heir apparent but the thinking was that the transition wouldn’t take place until the 2014 season. Robinson played in spots last year and showed some promise but his season ended when the suffered a torn pec in the Week 12 game in Dallas.

If the Redskins can bring back Lorenzo Alexander, who is an unrestricted free agent, it is likely that he and Robinson will split snaps in Fletcher’s place. Calling the defenses could become the responsibility of Perry Riley, the other inside linebacker.

This is all speculation at this point. The Redskins’ Hail Mary effort to recover some or all of that $18 million cap penalty could show results. They could decide that they are better off trimming some salary cap dollars elsewhere and persuading Fletcher to stay another year.

But the bottom line is that the Redskins are going to have to face life without Fletcher at some point and that time may come sooner rather later.