No one is particularly surprised that London Fletcher is returning for another season. On Wednesday, he made it official after undergoing ankle surgery by tweeting, "Surgery went great...thanks for all the well wishes! Prep begins now for season 16!"
His announcement put an end to any retirement talk. Fact is, Fletcher's primary concern has been whether he'd be healthy enough to continue to play at a high level. This offseason, he has auditioned for television jobs and will transition into such a career once he retires.
However, a television job won't pay him $5 million per year. Not anytime soon, anyway. So this is Fletcher's last big payday and the Redskins will provide it. They won't try to pay him less than $5 million. If they want Fletcher to be a Redskin, he'll play for his full salary. It wouldn't be wise to ask a player like that to play for less money; it could lead to sour feelings in the locker room. For example, if Fletcher takes a pay cut, then out-performs someone earning more money.
The Redskins' No. 1 priority is upgrading their defensive secondary. If they wanted to, they could release Fletcher and apply the savings (approximately $3 million) toward a cornerback or safety.
Early in the season, Fletcher missed more tackles than usual. Some of that can be attributed to playing while he wasn't healthy. Age (he's 37) and injuries can be a lethal combination. Some NFL analysts have said they can see a linebacker's decline when he's missing tackles in the hole. However, in the final month of the season, Fletcher came back and played solidly (and did so while injured).
Redskins' fans will be watching closely to see how this turns out for Fletcher. He's still helpful in terms of leadership, knowledge, preparation and intensity (in practice and games). But for most players, at some point injuries and age combine to work against them. The Redskins do have backup Lorenzo Alexander, provided that they can get him re-signed. They do have second-year linebacker Keenan Robinson, although there is some uncertainty regarding whether he's ready for a full-time role. So they do have alternate plans.
Fletcher will have to show the Redskins that his returning is a good idea. There may be some questions about his ability to perform at a high level as he enters his 16th campaign. But don't count him out because he's proven time and time again, that he can get the job done.