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Free agency can work

For all the criticism I heap on the team for their refusal to utilize more of their draft picks, it is only fair that when the team does make some consequential and successful offseason moves in free agency (a strategy I question) they deserve credit for doing so. For every Brandon Lloyd there is a Marcus Washington (from Indy in 2004). Giving credit where credit is due:

Shawn Springs -- Springs joined the Redskins in 2004 from this week's opponent. In his tenure here he has been the best cornerback on the team and remains that today. He leads all cornerbacks in tackles (62) and interceptions (4). With the loss of Carlos Rogers (to IR) and Sean Taylor, Shawn's role is even more important to a secondary that is still playing incredibly well in spite of the personnel loss. The most significant tribute to Shawn is probably how different the team looks when he isn't on the field; 2006 was a defensive disaster hastened all the moreso whenever Springs was out of the lineup, which was frequent.

Andre Carter: The beast was scooped in 2006 from San Fransisco and is undeniably the best player on the defensive line. He leads defensive linemen in tackles (55) and the team in sacks (10) which is twice as much as anyone else on the team. He has also recovered four fumbles, tied with Phillip Daniels as the team leader. After last year's depressing 19 sacks, questions abounded over how we could improve on that with an aging defensive line. It's proven no trouble whatsoever with the way Carter is playing, as the team eclipsed that figure by orders of magnitude and stands ~ middle of the league with 33 sacks.

Drum roll... London Fletcher: This is actually who the entire post is about, as London Fletcher is the definitive impact free agent on the team. Per Paul Woody via Extreme Skins:

Fletcher is the middle linebacker for the Redskins. He leads the team in film study, game-preparation time, tackles, and, generally, anything in which the Redskins need to be led.

Saturday, he will lead them against the Seattle Seahawks in an NFC wild-card round playoff game.

"He's the best leader I've been around," Redskins safety Reed Doughty said. "He's awesome.

"He makes the correct calls. He makes plays. He has a presence. You can talk all you want, but if you want to lead, you've got to make plays. He makes a lot of plays."

I'm not in a position to talk about the intangibles since I don't spend the week as Fletcher's teammates, but they scream his praises. But his tangibles are pretty damn good too: he leads the team in tackles (138) and is third on the team in picks (3). He's not only the best linebacker on the team, but one of the best in the league: Fletcher is 6th among LBs in tackles, 4th in passes defensed (13) and tied for 7th in interceptions. We went from dogmeat defensively in '06 to one of the best units in the league this season and it wasn't by coincedence. London Fletcher has been as clutch a part of our postseason run as anyone and is the leader of our defense. Those kinds of players are in short supply, but what makes it all the more impressive is how much respect he's commanded from teammates in such a short period of time. He hasn't been with the team for years and years yet commands the defense as though he had. I was among those skeptical that an elder free agent linebacker would fix the D but thankfully my cynicism was misplaced, here.

Others: Antwaan Randle El is having a career year as an outstanding complement to Santana Moss. Todd Collins was signed to join Al Saunders in Washington, ostensibly as a 3rd string quarterback and extra QB coach. Now he's the NFC player of the month and charging the Redskins into the postseason. And, of course, Ethan Albright, the great Red Snapper. I would not take the box.