- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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According to the team's official website, the Washington Redskins would like to know before free agency begins eight days from now whether veteran inside linebacker London Fletcher is planning to retire or return for the 2013 season:
Inside linebacker could be addressed in free agency or the draft. Either way, head coach Mike Shanahan said the team would like to know an answer heading into next Tuesday.
"I really don’t know," Shanahan said of Fletcher's plans. "London’s the type of guy [where] you don’t even want to ask him a question because his mindset is he’s a warrior [for] how hard he’s played and what he’s done for this organization."
In Shanahan's experience, the players that ponder retirement too long are the ones that are already mentally retired.
"One thing you have to do, is you have to have a mindset that there’s no way you’re going to retire," Shanahan said. "If you’re thinking about retirement and you’re not really sure... you’re probably already retired."
I'm sure the Redskins would like as much information as possible before embarking upon their offseason plan. And I'm sure they'd like to have Fletcher back. Especially considering the cuts they're likely to have to make elsewhere on the roster as a result of their salary-cap penalty, his leadership is likely to be important next year if the roster is more scaled down than they'd like it to be.
But I'm not as sure they really need Fletcher's answer by 4 p.m. ET next Tuesday. If he leaves, they could replace him internally by re-signing Lorenzo Alexander or elevating second-year man Keenan Robinson. Or they could find a free-agent option, as the linebacker market is generally slow-moving and team-favorable. Whatever they do, they're not likely to find an ideal replacement for everything Fletcher brings on and off the field. But it wouldn't be hard to find someone late in the market who could line up at inside linebacker for them in 2013, even if Fletcher drags out his decision. Given their cap problems and their needs elsewhere, I highly doubt that a Fletcher decision in the next eight days would alter their offseason plan too dramatically.
I still think Fletcher comes back and plays in 2013, but the fact that it's not yet resolved gives Redskins fans good reason to worry. Whatever he decides, though, and whenever he decides it, I don't think that's going to change what the Redskins do eight days from now at safety and offensive line.