The veteran cornerback really struggled down the stretch in 2014. His struggles against Dez Bryant in Week 15 especially contributed to the Eagles missing the playoffs despite finishing with a 10-6 record. After being burned on multiple occasions by DeSean Jackson in Week 16, Fletcher was actually benched.
It wasn't a surprise to see Fletcher leave in free agency. It also wasn't a surprise to see the Eagles heavily address the cornerback position this offseason with the additions of Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond, Eric Rowe, JaCorey Shepherd, and Randall Evans.
What was surprising is that, for as much as Fletcher struggled, the Patriots had interest in signing him. And not only that, but New England has since parted ways with four of their top five cornerbacks this offseason. Fletcher is now that much closer to getting on the field for the Patriots.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that ... Fletcher is actually an above average cornerback. Or at least that's what Football Outsiders had to say in a recent post about New England's offseason:
"After losing Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in free agency, the Patriots appeared likely to take a corner early in the draft. Instead, perhaps scared off by the ghosts of Ras-I Dowling and Terrence Wheatley, Bill Belichick waited until the seventh round to draft a corner. The Patriots now have Bradley Fletcher, signed from the Eagles in free agency, as their No. 1 cornerback.
If all you know of Fletcher are 2014 lowlights like this and this, then this sounds like an untenable situation. It's not quite as bad as it seems. No cornerback in football gets a bigger boost in his numbers when we account for the opposing receivers he had to face. If we adjust for Fletcher's schedule -- including five games lining up across from Dez Bryant (fifth in receiving DVOA), DeSean Jackson (sixth), and Jordy Nelson (eighth) -- Fletcher actually ranked 36th in adjusted success rate, making Fletcher an above-average corner. He is also an excellent value at the price the Patriots paid for him.
The fact that Fletcher is underrated and came at a bargain rate would make him an excellent No. 2 corner. He's still not a desirable option as your team's top corner. Even adjusting for opposition, the Eagles were still just 24th against opponents' top wideouts in 2014."
Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus (along Eagles fans) would probably disagree. Fletcher ranked 92nd out of 108 cornerbacks last season. According to PFF, Fletcher allowed more yards (1,072) than any other cornerback. His nine touchdowns allowed were second worst.
It's true that Fletcher might benefit from having better safety play behind him (see: Devin McCourty), but "above average corner" still seems ... very ... generous.