Filling their need for a proven, run-stuffing middle linebacker, the Washington Redskins on Friday evening reached a contract agreement with unrestricted free agent London Fletcher, ESPN.com has learned.
Fletcher, 31, will sign a five-year, $25 million contract that includes $10.5 million in bonuses. He will earn nearly $13 million in the first two seasons of the deal and about $15 million over the first three years.
The deal reunites Fletcher with Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was his head coach with the Buffalo Bills for three seasons (2001-2003).
It had been reported for more than a week that Washington had targeted Fletcher as a priority in free agency, because of his familiarity with Williams and his incredible productivity for a player his age. The Redskins flew Fletcher into town on Friday, visited with him much of the day as they negotiated with agent Drew Rosenhaus, then sealed the agreement in the evening.
The Washington defense slipped considerable against the run in '06, statistically ranking 27th in that key category after being No. 13 in 2005, and Fletcher should help reverse the unit's fortunes. Certainly, despite being in the league for nine years, there has been no discernable falloff in his performance.
Fletcher is also a strong locker room presence, an attribute that Williams stressed to his Washington bosses.
A human tackling machine, the undersized but ever-active Fletcher has averaged 143.4 tackles over the past five seasons. Unlike most middle linebackers around the league, though, Fletcher can stay on the field on third down because of his solid skills in pass coverage.
In nine seasons, Fletcher has 1,091 tackles, 27 ½ sacks, 11 interceptions, 27 passes defensed, 10 forced fumbles and seven recoveries. He has 100-plus tackles in seven seasons and has appeared in 144 games for the Rams (1998-2001) and the Bills (2002-2006).
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.