[Note by JasonB, 02/18/12 5:26 PM EST ] yuehho makes the case for the Eagles signing London Fletcher.
I think it's a safe assumption to say that an 8-8 season isn't exactly what the Eagles had in mind when they let Andy Reid go on his free agent shopping spree. However, this team has more talent than ever, perhaps in franchise history. The right moves could not only make the Eagles a playoff team once more, but also a Super Bowl contender.
To achieve that lofty goal, it is blatantly obvious that the Eagles must upgrade their sorry group of linebackers. The likes of Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Brian Rolle, and Moise Fokou failed to shed blocks and to tackle consistently and in general just seemed lost out there half the time. As a result, running backs had their way with this Eagles defense for most of the season.
While many are pointing to the draft to solve the Eagles’ woes at linebacker, with their eyes on Luke Kuechly, the Eagles would be wise to turn to free agency once again. Many may cringe at that thought, as the Eagles’ free agent spending spree last offseason did not exactly pan out. However, with such a talented group of veteran linebackers to select this year, if the Eagles are serious about winning now they must take advantage of this opportunity.
Players such as Stephen Tulloch and Curtis Lofton are available. But Tulloch, despite being a veteran of the wide-9, is inconsistent at times. And Lofton is a core player for the Falcons and it seems highly unlikely that they will let him walk. It is also expected that the Browns will place the franchise tag on D'Qwell Jackson.
Therefore, the Eagles must look into finding a way to bring in London Fletcher.
More after the jump.
Sure, Fletcher will turn 37 by the start of next season. But he is coming off a career season, registering no less than 166 tackles. The man can clearly still play and does not show many signs of slowing down. A tackling machine like Fletcher would be invaluable to an Eagles linebacker corps that failed to consistently bring down opponents. His presence alone would instantly upgrade the Eagles run defense.
And if the Eagles were to select a linebacker early in the draft, the Eagles would have an impressive group. With Fletcher manning the middle of the field and Chaney and a first round talent both at outside linebacker, combined with the impressive defensive line and secondary, the Eagles would boast one of the most complete defenses in the NFL.
Fletcher also does not bring only athletic ability to the table. He was also a team captain with the Washington Redskins and a leader. That has been something the Eagles have seriously lacked on defense ever since the departure of Brian Dawkins. And with the Eagles allowing pretty much every other vocal leader on defense to walk last offseason (Quintin Mikell and Stewart Bradley) the Eagles defense failed like none other in crucial situations, frequently blowing 4th quarter leads. That would never have happened under the watch of Dawkins.
Fletcher can be the leader this team desperately needs. He is also a very cerebral player, responsible in Washington for changing the formation of the front seven based on the offense’s alignment, and can therefore also put other players in the best situation to succeed.
While the Redskins have expressed interest in bringing Fletcher back, it is more likely that the Eagles would be able to court him as opposed to someone like Lofton. Fletcher is aging and the Redskins are a rebuilding team. The team is not going to contend for at least a few seasons, so it would perhaps be best for them to allow Fletcher to walk if he is presented a good offer from another team.
The Eagles, on the other hand, need all the veteran leadership they can get right now. And they might just get it with Fletcher if they are willing to make one more splash in free agency.