Donald Butler

49ers Work Out Sean Spence, Donald Butler

As linebacker Reuben Foster deals with an ankle injury, the 49ers are looking into some outside help. San Francisco auditioned linebackers Sean Spence and Donald Butler on Tuesday, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter). Sean Spence (vertical)

Spence spent last season with the Titans and recorded 50 tackles with three sacks in 15 appearances (six starts). He hooked on with the rival Colts in March, but Indianapolis decided to eat the $750K guaranteed in his deal rather than keep him on the 53-man roster. Spence might not be starting material, but he could be a worthwhile reserve for SF until Foster gets back on the field.

Butler, a former third-round pick, spent his entire six-year career with the Chargers before being released by the team in March of 2016. He joined up with the Dolphins in September of last year and saw time in 14 games, including five starts. His 28 total tackles marked a career low and it was his first season without at least half a sack.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Sign Donald Butler

The Dolphins have already filled the roster spot previously held by injured defensive tackle Earl Mitchell. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that the team has signed linebacker Donald Butler. The 27-year-old worked out for the Dolphins earlier today.

Donald ButlerButler, a former third-round pick, spent his entire six-year career with the Chargers before being released by the team in March. After missing his rookie season with a torn ACL, the linebacker found his own through his first several seasons in the league. The team later gave the defender a contract extension, but Butler quickly found himself in the doghouse in San Diego.

He landed on the injured reserve in 2014, and he found himself on the bench for half of the 2015 season. Butler set career-lows across the board last season, compiling 43 tackles, 0.5 sacks, and no passes defended. Butler briefly caught on with the Cardinals this offseason, but he failed to make the final 53-man roster.

The Dolphins were certainly in the market for a linebacker, as the team reportedly hosted veteran A.J. Hawk yesterday.

Cardinals Cut Butler, Clemons, Others

The Cardinals are cutting linebacker Donald Butler and safety Chris Clemons as a part of their effort to get down to 53, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets"<strong

Butler signed a one-year deal with Arizona earlier this offseason, but it did not include any guaranteed money. The veteran, who has seven career sacks and three interceptions to his credit, played well enough in both 2012 and 2013 to earn a lucrative extension from the Chargers after the ’13 season. However, he struggled in 2014 and 2015, leading to his release in March of 2016. Butler was expected to bring experience to Arizona’s inside linebacker corps.

Clemons didn’t see much playing time since joining the Cardinals in 2014, but he was re-signed by the team in February to a non-guaranteed deal. The veteran was battling the likes of Tony Jefferson, rookie Marqui Christian, and Durell Eskridge for a spot behind starters Tyrann Mathieu and D.J. Swearinger but came up short. Earlier this offseason, Clemons was accused of assaulting a 25-year-old woman outside of a downtown Scottsdale nightclub.

The Cardinals also waived running back Kerwynn Williams, cornerback Cariel Brooks, wide receiver Marquis Bundy, tackle Rob Crisp, and guard Antoine McClain, as Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. The full list of moves by the Cardinals today (so far) is below:

  • LB Donald Butler
  • S Chris Clemons
  • RB Kerwynn Williams
  • CB Cariel Brooks
  • WR Marquis Bundy
  • OT Rob Crisp
  • Antoine McClain
  • WR Jaxon Shipley
  • C Taylor Boggs

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals Sign LB Donald Butler

SATURDAY, 8:25am: The deal also includes a $40K roster bonus, tweets ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss.

FRIDAY, 1:35pm: It’s a one-year, $800K deal for Butler, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets.

WEDNESDAY, 2:08pm: The Cardinals announced that they have signed linebacker Donald Butler. To make room for Butler on the roster, the Cards released inside linebacker Quayshawn NealyDonald Butler

Butler, who has seven career sacks and three interceptions to his credit, played well enough in both 2012 and 2013 to earn a lucrative extension after the 2013 season. However, he struggled in 2014 and 2015, leading to his release earlier this offseason. Brown, 29, was set to enter his contract year before the Bolts cut him, absolving themselves of a $500K roster bonus, plus a $3MM base salary in the fall. By dropping him, they wiped that entire $3.5MM from their cap.

If he makes the roster, Butler will bring experience to Arizona’s inside linebacker corps. Aside from their latest addition, the Cards have Deone BucannonKevin Minter, Alani Fua, Gabe Martin, and rookie Lamar Louis at inside linebacker, as shown on Roster Resource.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

How The Cowboys Could Replace Rolando McClain

For the second consecutive season, Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain will serve a suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse. In 2015, Dallas only had to survive without McClain for a quarter of the season, but given that McClain is facing a 10-game ban for 2016, the Cowboys will need to more seriously consider how they’re going to make up for the loss of their middle linebacker.

We’ve examined how Dallas might go about finding a replacement for McClain, looking at players already on the Cowboys’ roster, free agents sitting on the open market, and veterans who could be on the roster bubble with their respective clubs. Let’s dive in…

Internal options:

The primary name being floated to replace McClain in the middle is third-year linebacker Anthony Hitchens, whom the Cowboys selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. Thing is, Hitchens was already a starter — he played on the inside in Anthony Hitchens (Vertical)McClain’s absence last year, and then moved to the outside, ultimately seeing action on about half of Dallas’ defensive snaps. So if Hitchens is being counted on to man the middle full-time, including in sub packages, the Cowboys would need to find a replacement at strong-side linebacker, meaning Kyle Wilber and/or Andrew Gachkar could see meaningful snaps after spending most of their respective careers as special teams players.

[RELATED: Updated Dallas Cowboys depth chart]

Gachkar, meanwhile, is another option to fill in at middle linebacker, and he has experience at the position. If chosen, Gachkar would likely be a two-down player, as Pro Football Focus’ grades have shown him to be effective against the run but a liability in pass coverage. The 27-year-old has never been a major defensive contributor — he was forced to step into the starting lineup when the Chargers suffered a variety of injuries at the linebacker position in 2014, but even then, he only played on 36.5% of San Diego’s defensive snaps.

The “wild card” in this race is second-year player Mark Nzeocha, according to Bryan Broaddus of the Cowboys’ website. A seventh-round pick in last year’s draft, Nzeocha only appeared in two games during his rookie season, managing 14 snaps, all of which came on special teams. Extremely athletic, Nzeocha was all over the field at Wyoming, playing safety and all three linebacker positions. His learning curve might be steep, but he clearly has all the physical tools to play the position.

A source tells PFR that the Cowboys are, for the most part, satisfied with the current state of their linebacker room, and are looking forward to have their young players compete for playing time while McClain is suspended. Dallas, says the source, hasn’t shown a lot of interest in scouring the free agent market for substitutes, so one of Hitchens, Gachkar, or Nzeocha might be the favorite to earn significant snaps this fall.

Free agents:

Donald Butler — After selecting Denzel Perryman in 2015 and Joshua Perry in this year’s draft, the Chargers parted ways with Butler, who had spent the past five seasons with the club. At age-27, Butler is the youngest free agent option on this list, but he’s coming off the worst season of his career, having posted just 40 tackles during the 2016 campaign. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune accused Butler of “losing interest” after receiving a massive extension prior to the 2014 season, so perhaps some other clubs have made that same assessment.Justin Durant (vertical)

Justin Durant — Durant started 12 games for the Falcons last year, but prior to his time in Atlanta he spent two seasons with the Cowboys, so at the very least he’d offer some familiarity with Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli‘s playbook. Versatility is another point in Durant’s favor, as he played mostly inside linebacker with Atlanta and Detroit, roamed the middle during his Jacksonville tenure, and moved between both positions with the Cowboys.

A.J. Hawk — The Bengals signed Hawk to a two-year deal before the 2015 campaign, but despite injuries limiting fellow linebacker Vontaze Burfict to just 10 games, Hawk rarely saw the field, playing on roughly a quarter of Cincinnati’s defensive snaps. Hawk recently told Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer that although he’s aware a club might not express interest until late in camp (or perhaps after the season begins), he’s staying in shape in the hopes of receiving a phone call.

David Hawthorne — Like Durant, Hawthorne offers positional versatility, having seen action at both inside and outside linebacker. In 2015, Hawthorne was shifted to the weak side in favor of rookie Stephone Anthony, but was then benched, declared inactive, and ultimately released after an unproductive season. Still, he’s got 83 career starts under his belt, and would presumably feel comfortable in the middle of the Dallas defense.

Keep reading for more external options that could be on the Cowboys’ radar…

Read more

FA Rumors: J. Jones, Incognito, Asiata, Butler

Appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier today (SoundCloud link), veteran receiver James Jones said that while he’d like to return to the Packers in 2016, it appears as though he’ll hit the open market once again. Jones, who will turn 32 later this month, had an excellent season in Green Bay, averaging nearly 18 yards per reception and scoring eight touchdowns. His age will be hindrance, but Jones should be able to latch on with another club early in free agency.

Free agency opens in less than four days, so let’s dive into the latest news and rumors…

  • The Bills never made guard Richie Incognito an extension offer during the season, according to Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News, and they’ve since “lowballed” Incognito and have gone several-day stretches without contacting his agent. If that’s the case, it’s perhaps no wonder Incognito is reportedly frustrated with how the talks are proceeding.
  • Like Jones, running back Matt Asiata has spent a lot of time in the NFC North, and he tells Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link) that he’d like to re-sign with the Vikings. If Minnesota doesn’t offer a contract to Asiata’s liking, however, he’s perfectly willing to listen to other clubs when the legal tampering period begins on Monday.
  • Linebacker Donald Butler, released by the Chargers on Thursday, tells Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (Twitter link) that he expected to be released, especially after San Diego drafted fellow linebacker Denzel Perryman last year. Additionally, Butler says he has’t draw much (if any) interest on the free agent market yet.
  • The Steelers don’t often spend in free agency, but every rule has an exception, and Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune argues that the club should look to the open market as they search for a Heath Miller replacement at tight end. Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, and Ladarius Green are a few of the top options who might be available next week.

Chargers Cut Donald Brown, Kavell Conner

The Chargers have issued a press release announcing that the team has cut four players from its roster. In addition to confirming the release of veteran linebacker Donald Butler, the Chargers have also parted ways with running back Donald Brown, linebacker Kavell Conner, and linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo.Donald Brown

[RELATED: Chargers release Donald Butler]

Brown, who turns 29 next month, had been set to enter the final season of the three-year contract he signed with the Chargers back in 2014. However, he had long been considered a probable cap casualty. If the Chargers had kept Brown on their roster, the team would have owed him a $500K roster bonus next week, plus a $3MM base salary in the fall. By cutting him, they wipe that entire $3.5MM from their cap.

Although he made a handful of starts for the Chargers in his two years in San Diego, particularly when the club’s backfield was hit hard by injuries, Brown never made a significant impact. In total, he accumulated 452 rushing yards on 144 attempts (3.1 ypc), and added 299 receiving yards on 37 catches. With Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead, and Branden Oliver in the mix, Brown likely would have been buried on the depth chart if he had returned in 2016.

Conner, who just turned 29, started seven games for the Chargers in 2014, but saw his role cut back in 2015. After picking up 70 tackles and a sack in his first year with the Chargers, Cavell logged just 15 tackles last season. His release will clear his $950K base salary from San Diego’s books.

Ariguzo, who has yet to appear in a regular-season NFL game, spent the 2015 season on IR. He’ll hit waivers and his release won’t create any cap room for the Chargers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Release Donald Butler

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.”Donald Butler

“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.

Sunday Roundup: Ray, Eagles, Chargers

Let’s take a look a a few notes from around the league:

  • Shane Ray‘s draft stock took a hit because of a citation for marijuana possession and a toe injury, but the Missouri product was still selected in the first round, as the Broncos traded up to nab the high-ceiling pass rusher. As Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writes, Denver hopes that Ray, who missed rookie minicamp as a result of the toe injury, will be able to participate in some capacity when the team resumes work tomorrow. As Alper points out, though, Ray’s work is likely to be limited, especially since the Broncos just lost third-round tight end Jeff Heuerman to a torn ACL at minicamp.
  • Of all the eyebrow-raising moves that Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has made during his brief tenure with the club, his decisions relating to Philadelphia’s wide receiving corps may be the most curious. But as David Murphy of The Philadelphia Daily News writes, with the addition of Nelson Agholor–a physical clone of Jeremy Maclin–the expected improvement from Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews, and the team’s ability to shift Darren Sproles to more of a pass-catching role now that DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews are in the fold, the Eagles may actually have a more dynamic set of receivers than they had in 2014.
  • Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano says rookie Denzel Perryman will compete for time at inside linebacker with projected starters Manti Te’o and Donald Butler, but that ultimately everybody will see time on the field, ESPN’s Eric D. Williams writes. Pagano complimented his talent not only at the linebacker position, but also on special teams.
  • The Chargers don’t have a true fullback on their roster, but San Diego State product Chad Young hopes to change that, Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego writes. Young has experience on his side, having been in training camp last year with the Jets. But like other fullbacks, he has seen his position fade across the NFL over the past several years.
  • Former Maryland standout Andre Monroe tried out for the Chargers during the team’s rookie minicamp, writes Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. Monroe set Maryland’s school record with 25 career sacks, 20 of which came in his last 26 games. But at 5’10” and 294 pounds, Monroe is a bit undersized for an NFL defensive lineman, and he was not immediately offered a contract by San Diego.
  • Longtime Ravens scout Joe Douglas has accepted a job with the Bears, according to a press release from the Ravens. Douglas will be Chicago’s new director of college scouting.
  • The Steelers have hired veteran NFL personnel man Rick Reiprish to join their player personnel department, writes Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Reiprish, who has over 30 years of experience in player personnel, was the Saints’ director of college scouting for 11 years until he was released in a front-office shakeup earlier this year.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Chargers Place Donald Butler On IR

The Chargers announced that they have placed Donald Butler on the injured reserve with a dislocated elbow. With the inside linebacker out for the year, the Bolts promoted cornerback Greg Ducre off the practice squad to the active roster and signed quarterback Brad Sorensen to the practice squad.

Butler, 26, re-signed with the Chargers in March rather than hitting the open market. While we don’t know what other clubs might have offered him, Butler was paid hansomely to forego free agency. Butler’s deal covers seven years with a total potential value of $51.8MM with $11.15MM guaranteed at signing. It’s yet another season dragged down by injuries for Butler, who ranked 45th among 55 qualified inside linebackers in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics (subscription required). This season, he ranks an abysmal 59th out of 60 qualified inside linebackers.

Ducre was signed to San Diego’s taxi squad last week just days after being let go by Washington. The 22-year-old (23 in January) was a superstar in camp with the Chargers this past season, so it’s not a huge surprise to see him get the promotion.

Sorensen, 26, was drafted 221st overall in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Chargers. The Southern Utah product was cut loose this past August but the Bolts have obviously kept his number handy. Sorensen spent some time on the Titans’ taxi squad this season and auditioned for the Texans, Panthers, Seahawks, Vikings, Bills, and Patriots once he was let go in late September.