Chargers linebacker Donald Butler is the latest veteran player to receive his walking players today, as Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. Butler himself confirmed the move today in a tweet, calling his time in San Diego “an amazing ride.”
“To my teammates and fans who have supported me throughout last 6 years I am forever appreciative and grateful,” Butler said. “Also, to the Spanos family for giving me the opportunity to play in a great city in front of great fans. So excited for what’s next and the opportunities ahead!”
Back in 2014, Butler signed a seven-year contract extension with the Chargers, but that deal could essentially be split into two halves. If San Diego had retained the veteran linebacker for the 2016 season, the club would have been on the hook for a $12MM option bonus due to be paid in 2017. That’s why, when I previewed the Chargers’ offseason last month, I identified Butler as one of the team’s most obvious release candidates.
Butler, 27, started 53 of his 55 games with the Chargers during his first four years with the franchise, from 2011 to 2014. However, he was relegated to a backup role during the 2015 season. For the season, he recorded a career-low 40 tackles to go along with 0.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Pro Football Focus placed him in the bottom 10 of 2015’s 97 qualified linebackers, assigning him a particularly poor grade as a run defender.
Releasing Butler will leave the Chargers with a $6.69MM dead money charge, assuming the team doesn’t designate him as a post-June 1 cut. However, he had been set to count for $9.28MM in 2016, so the move creates $2.59MM in cap savings.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.