Cap sanctions holding up Fletcher deal?

One of the most common questions I've been getting from readers this week is: "Why haven't the Washington Redskins signed London Fletcher yet??????" And I honestly don't know. Mike Shanahan said during the final week of the season that Fletcher was a top priority. Fletcher has said he'd like to be back. The Redskins haven't exactly been offseason wallflowers. So it would stand to reason that Fletcher would be re-signed by now.

But he isn't, and it's a concern for the Redskins and their fans. Even as they get younger, the soon-to-be-37-year-old Fletcher is a critical part of what the Redskins do -- a leader on the field and in the locker room, an example to the younger players and still possibly the most productive player on what's becoming a pretty good defense.

Alex Marvez of Sirius XM Radio spoke with Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander on Friday, and Alexander said he believes the $36 million salary cap penalty with which the NFL hit the Redskins on the day before free agency is the reason for the holdup. Alex tweeted this:

#Redskins LB Lorenzo Alexander says NFL cap penalty hindering contract talks 2 re-sign LB London Fletcher & could lead 2 vets leaving in '13

The second part isn't likely to matter too much, since as I said the Redskins are getting younger and there are probably few veterans at risk of leaving in 2013 without whom the Redskins could survive. But the idea -- whether speculative or otherwise -- that the cap penalty is the reason for the holdup in Fletcher's deal makes sense.

The Redskins were able to sign younger players like Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to long-term deals because they're able to pay signing bonuses and spread out the cap hit over several years. But Fletcher's deal, since he's about to turn 37, isn't likely to be a very long one. And since Fletcher is still so valuable as a player and otherwise, it's not likely to be a cheap one either. So it's entirely possible the Redskins are stuck with the problem of how to fit a significant portion of a new Fletcher deal under this year's cap, and that such a problem is one they haven't faced with the other contracts they've handed out this offseason.

This isn't to say Fletcher won't be back, but it's obviously been a trickier process than the Redskins would have wanted it to be. And the longer it goes, the greater the chance there is that some other team snatches Fletcher away. The Redskins had a ton of salary cap room before the penalty hit, but losing $18 million this year and $18 million more next year against the cap is making some things more difficult, as you'd expect.