London Fletcher says he “loves” playing for the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins, though, had better give Fletcher some love financially to keep one of the NFL’s most prolific linebackers.
Speaking with me and co-host Bill Polian on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Fletcher said he wants to have a new deal finalized before the March 13 start of the free-agent signing period. Otherwise, Fletcher won’t hesitate to shop his services elsewhere.
“Hopefully, we’ll get something done,” Fletcher said Tuesday night. “But if I make it to March 13 (unsigned), who knows?”
Even at age 36, Fletcher wouldn’t be lacking for suitors. Fletcher was credited last season with 166 tackles, a career-high figure that also led the NFL.
Fletcher praised three new additions to Washington’s front seven (rookie outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and defensive linemen Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen) for helping him reach that tackle total. Fletcher, though, said his individual success was mitigated by Washington’s 5-11 record and fourth consecutive season in the NFC East basement.
“There’s not much to celebrate when you go 5-11,” said Fletcher, a Redskins team captain. “People like to say, ‘You beat the (New York) Giants twice.’ Well, that means absolutely nothing because they’re holding the Lombardi Trophy and we’re holding nothing.”
Washington hopes to improve in 2012 by upgrading at quarterback. One possibility is Peyton Manning if the Indianapolis Colts release the future Hall of Famer as expected by March 8. Manning is currently rehabilitating from his fourth neck surgery in a 19-month span.
Asked how Manning would look in a Redskins jersey, Fletcher laughed and said, “He’s going to look great in any uniform. He’s Peyton Manning.”
“The thing I know about Peyton: You don’t become that good without being extremely driven and competitive,” continued Fletcher, who entered the NFL with Manning as rookies in 1998. “What’s happening right now, Peyton, in his mind, is being doubted. People doubt his ability to come back and perform at the extremely high level that he has always played at.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that wherever Peyton plays next year, he will have a phenomenal year because of his mindset to be the best. You don’t reach the level he has without having a great sense of pride and work ethic.”
The same can be said about Fletcher. Besides providing strong locker room leadership and being active in charitable causes through his foundation (www.londonsbridge.org), Fletcher has notched 11 consecutive seasons of 100-plus tackles without missing a start. Fletcher left Buffalo in 2007 as a free agent for a five-year, $25 million contract with Washington.
“I signed with Washington when I was going into my 10th season. I don’t think they thought I’d play as well as I’ve played for as long as I’ve played,” a chuckling Fletcher said. “Fortunately, I’ve been able to continue to play at a high level and play out that contract.
“I’d love to go back to Washington, but obviously it’s a business. It’ll take some time to get done but we both want to get a deal done. We’ll see what happens.”