It could have been another one of those Redskins contracts that causes eyes to roll around the NFL. Five years, $25 million with $10.5 million up front to a short middle linebacker who was going to be 32 before the season started and who hadn't been to a playoff game in five years.
Turns out the only eyes rolling are the ones of the opponents that London Fletcher is belting en route to righting Washington's defense.
A year after ranking 31st overall, 27th in scoring defense and rushing defense and 23rd against the pass, the Redskins are fifth overall and against the run, third in scoring defense and eighth against the pass.
Youngsters LaRon Landry and Rocky McIntosh have played roles as has assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams' simplified scheme, but there's no question about the biggest factor in the quantum leap.
"That's our difference-maker," defensive end Phillip Daniels said about Fletcher. "When you've got a middle linebacker, you can do a lot of things up front, you can do a lot of things behind you."
Fletcher, who previously played for Williams in Buffalo in 2002-03, did a lot of things in last week's 21-19 victory over Buffalo. He returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown. He knocked a sure first down out of the hands of Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin in the fourth quarter. He made a team-high 13 tackles, including a late stop of Edgerrin James for no gain at the Washington 12-yard line and an even later stop of Marcel Shipp for a yard loss at the 2.
But Williams was just as impressed with Fletcher's leadership, a major factor in the Redskins' decision to sign him in hopes of rebounding to the top 10 defense they were in 2004-05.
"London played spectacular," Williams said. "(But) there were so many things that he does that really goes unnoticed. ... You can be a good player, but are you a good leader? A good leader gets the guys around (him) to play better than they played before. He's been invaluable to a young guy like Landry. He's been invaluable to a young guy like Rocky McIntosh. Not only does London play at a very high level, he's getting everybody else around him to play at a high level."