Vernon Butler

Panthers Decline Vernon Butler’s Option

The Panthers announced that they have declined their fifth-year option on defensive tackle Vernon Butler. The former first-round pick is now slated for unrestricted free agency after the 2019 season. 

The Panthers picked up the fifth-year option of every first round pick from Cam Newton (2011 draft) all the way through 2015. Today, that streak ends with Butler’s extra year being turned down.

Butler was drafted No. 30 overall under the Dave Gettleman administration. The Panthers had high hopes for the Louisiana Tech product, but he’s amassed just 45 tackles and two sacks as a bench player over the last three years. And, last year, Butler was a healthy scratch for two straight games. In short – the decision to turn down Butler’s additional year was widely expected.

NFL teams have until Friday to make the call on the fifth-year options for 2016 first-round picks, but most clubs have already made their decisions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers’ Vernon Butler Accused Of Assault

Panthers defensive tackle Vernon Butler has been accused of assaulting a woman at a Dallas night club earlier this month, according to a report from WSCOTV in Texas.

Butler had reached out to the woman via Instagram, but she’d rejected his advances, the woman’s attorney tells Morgan Fogarty of WCCB Charlotte (Twitter link). When the two met at a Dallas night club two weeks ago, Butler was once again spurned, and allegedly responded by throwing ice at the woman’s face. After the woman fell down stairs, Butler reportedly pushed her again, and though WSCOTV’s report states the woman was escorted out of the club with a bruised face, her attorney tells Fogarty the woman had no visible injuries.

The Dallas Police Department confirmed they’re investigating the claims, but no charges have yet been filed against Butler. Needless to say, Butler could face legal discipline if the allegations prove true, but Fogarty reports this offense would be classified as a “Type C” assault, the lowest level of assault. Butler could clear that charge by paying a fine, but the NFL itself could also issue punishment against Butler, regardless of whether he’s found guilty.

Butler, 24, was a first-round pick out of Louisiana Tech in the 2016 draft. During his two-year stint with the Panthers, he’s appeared in 24 total games but made no starts. Last season, Butler played on roughly a third of Carolina’s defensive snaps, managing eight tackles in the process.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/12/17

Here are today’s minor moves.

  • Ryan Tannehill‘s season is officially over. The Dolphins placed the quarterback on IR and signed linebacker Junior Sylvestre. Tannehill, who will have knee surgery next week, is expected to be ready for the 2018 season. Sylvestre spent time with the Ryan Grigson-era Colts for two years but was cut after Indianapolis’ 2016 training camp. He signed with the Bills earlier this year but was cut after a month.
  • The Panthers signed defensive lineman Connor Wujciak, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Wujciak was an Eagles UDFA signing on in 2016, but an injury wiped out his would-be rookie season. The Chiefs worked out Wujciak last week. Panthers defensive tackle Vernon Butler will miss some time, Ron Rivera revealed Friday — via David Newton of ESPN.com — opening the door for an extra defensive line opportunity. Rivera said Butler’s target date for a return is Week 1. The Panthers waived defensive tackle Drew Iddings with an injury designation to open a roster spot, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer reports (on Twitter).
  • Carolina also brought back offensive lineman Brian Folkerts, Person reports. The Panthers made room by cutting offensive lineman Tyrus Thompson, who had spent time with them since last season (Twitter links). A three-year backup blocker who played in 16 games for the 2014 Panthers, Folkerts last played for the 2015 Rams. Los Angeles cut him when paring its roster down to 75 players last summer.
  • Cornerback Jumal Rolle signed with the Bills and will replace Charles James, whom the team released, Joe Buscaglia of WKBW reports (on Twitter). Both players have at least two years’ experience and both previously played for the Texans. The 27-year-old Rolle was a Houston UDFA in 2014 and has played in 18 games. Rolle also intercepted three passes as a rookie before becoming mostly a special teams player in the time since. James played in 21 games with Houston between the 2015-16 seasons; Buffalo claimed him on waivers in May.
  • The Broncos relocated defensive lineman Billy Winn to IR after his ACL tear diagnosis emerged Friday. They signed linebacker Nelson Adams, Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com reports.
  • Linebacker Reshard Cliett negotiated an injury settlement with the Chiefs, becoming a free agent after being removed from Kansas City’s IR list, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports (on Twitter).
  • The Giants waived linebacker Jimmy Herman, whom they signed Friday. James Kratch of NJ.com tweets Herman was given a “left squad” designation.
  • The Saints and linebacker Sae Tautu agreed on an injury settlement to trigger Tautu’s release from New Orleans’ IR, Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com tweets.
  • Rookie wide receiver Keevan Lucas signed a three-year contract with the Eagles, the team announced. Philadelphia waived linebacker Steven Daniels to make room. A Tulsa product, Lucas declared early but was not signed by a team after the draft.
  • Washington signed wide receiver Jamari Staples and waived/injured left tackle Kevin Bowen, per John Keim of ESPN.com. The Chiefs waived Staples in June after initially signing him in May. The Redskins also placed Trent Murphy on IR. Murphy tore his ACL in Washington’s preseason opener Thursday night.

Extra Points: Pats, Cowboys, Panthers, Bills

Newly-acquired defensive end Kony Ealy is in a “legitimate fight” to earn a place on the Patriots roster, opines Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. Thought to be a contender for a starting job (especially following Rob Ninkovich‘s retirement), Ealy has been practicing with New England’s reserves, per Reiss, who indicates Ealy simply “hasn’t clicked” since joining the defending Super Bowl champions. The Patriots essentially got Ealy for free from the Panthers, as they moved down only eight picks in the draft to pick up the 25-year-old. He’s signed through the 2017 season, but his $800K salary isn’t guaranteed.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Alfred Morris played ahead of Rod Smith during the Cowboys‘ Hall of Game exhibition last week despite having seen fewer carries than Smith during training camp, leading Todd Archer of ESPN.com to wonder if Dallas was showcasing Morris for a potential trade. Reports in March indicated the Cowboys were likely to shop Morris, who is behind Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, and Smith on the backfield depth chart, but his salary ($1.2MM) could prove a hindrance. Plus, with Elliott likely to serve a league-mandated suspension, Morris’ presence on the roster could become all the more important. In his first season in Dallas, Morris managed 69 carries for 243 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Second-year defensive tackle Vernon Butler is believed to have escaped with only a knee sprain after leaving the Panthers‘ first preseason game on Wednesday, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Butler will undergo an MRI today, but even a sprain could lead to a multi-week absence, meaning Butler may not be ready for the regular season opener. The 30th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Butler is expected to serve as Carolina’s third interior defender behind Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. Butler played 21% of the Panthers’ defensive snaps a season ago.
  • Expected to battle for a starting role, Bills linebacker Reggie Ragland is now playing with the club’s third-team defense, and is now behind both Preston Brown and free agent addition Gerald Hodges on Buffalo’s depth chart, according to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. As such, it’s conceivable the 2016 second-round draft pick could become a trade candidate, Rodak opines. Ragland not only missed the entirety of his rookie campaign with a torn ACL, but was selected by the Bills’ prior regime. Neither general manager Brandon Beane nor head coach Sean McDermott has any link to Ragland, so the 23-year-old could be on the block.
  • The Cardinals worked out punter Brock Miller on Wednesday, reports Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Miller, a former undrafted free agent out of Southern Utah, has been on the NFL workout circuit for much of the past three years. He signed a reserve/futures contract with San Francisco earlier this year, but was waived in May. Arizona sifted through three punters in 2016, and while Matt Wile is currently the incumbent, Richie Leone is also on the roster.

Impact Rookies: Carolina Panthers

The old adage that defense wins championships may or may not be true, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team that didn’t build heavily through the draft. Rookie classes, naturally, are evaluated on the perceived upside of the NFL newcomers, but which rookies are ready to contribute right out of the gate? And, how do they fit in with their new team schematically?

To help us forecast the immediate future of these NFL neophytes, we enlisted the help of draft guru Dave-Te Thomas who has served as a scouting personnel consultant to NFL teams for multiple decades.

First Round – Vernon Butler, DT (Louisiana Tech, No. 30 overall)

While Butler is certain to play an important role in the defensive tackle rotation this year, his arrival holds even further importance. With the first round pick showing flashes in camp, the Panthers have not yet embraced the idea of giving right defensive tackle Kawann Short the long-term deal the player wants. They could let Short walk after the season, if Butler shows he is ready to step in and contribute this season. Vernon Butler

Before his junior season, Tech coaches were seriously considering moving Butler to the offensive line – reasoning that his burst off the snap might be a better fit trap blocking from the guard position. Instead, they kept him on the D-Line and watched his draft stock soar.

Butler is a highly competitive sort who relishes his role as the defense’s “garbage man,” taking on multiple blockers constantly to free up a fellow Bulldog defender to make the play. He is simply unstoppable when he charges through the gaps and uses his hands with tremendous force when facing constant double teams. Some scouts were concerned about his gas tank late in games, but he worked hard during the 2015 offseason to get his weight down in order to eliminate his “tired legs” issue.

His strength at the point of attack is one of his best assets, as I have yet to see any blocker, or blockers, capable of riding him out once he anchors and establishes position in the trenches. He doesn’t use his violent hand punch as much as he should, but he can easily obliterate any blocker once he gets his hands into their body. He is the type that will rarely ever get bounced around by double teams, thanks to his overall strength and ability to remain at a low pad level. With his big, strong hands, body mass and aggression, Butler excels at shutting down the interior running game.

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NFC South Notes: Newton, Panthers, Short

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is a household name and widely considered to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL today. But how do his divisional foes regard him? Jenna Laine of ESPN.com spoke with a few Buccaneers players who say that they respect him overall with one player admitting that tackling him is a “chore.” As for his touchdown celebrations, Tampa players don’t seem to be nearly as irked by his dancing as some of the country’s talking heads are.

Here’s more out of the NFC South:

  • Was firing Lovie Smith and hiring Dirk Koetter the right move for the Buccaneers? Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com doesn’t think that Smith was given enough time to fix what was broken in Tampa for a long time. Although Smith was criticized for pushing the Tampa 2 scheme to hard in his two years with the Bucs, McClure hears that Gerald McCoy‘s work ethic was suspect, and that may have been the culprit of some D-Line issues. Meanwhile, Koetter got a lot of credit for turning around the Bucs’ offense, but McClure notes that the team also emphasized offense with 12 of 13 draft picks coming on offense during the 2014 and 2015 drafts, which surely helped. Smith may have been behind the 8-ball from the start as one source told McClure that he inherited a team “in disarray” in Tampa with “a lot of guys who didn’t love football.”
  • Bill Voth of Black And Blue Review wondered whether Panthers GM Dave Gettleman was thinking about Kawann Short‘s contract situation when he drafted Vernon Butler with the No. 30 overall pick. When asked about his overall philosophy on that, Gettleman didn’t specifically say whether he consider contracts of current players when prepping his boards. However, he did make it clear that he sees a difference-maker in Butler and was willing to take him even though he didn’t fill a need position-wise. “Looking at the roster, did we need another defensive tackle?” Gettleman asked rhetorically. “People can argue ‘no.’ But you know how much I believe in the front. You know how much I believe it’s a big man’s game and [coach] Ron [Rivera] is right there with me.”
  • There are a lot of people in the NFL who are breathing a sigh of relief now that the Saints ownership battle appears to be settled, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com.

Panthers Sign Vernon Butler

The Panthers have completed signing their 2016 draft class, announcing today that first-round defensive tackle Vernon Butler has officially put pen to paper on his rookie contract. Butler had been the last of Carolina’s five draftees to formally sign his new four-year deal.Vernon Butler

Of course, unlike the rest of the Panthers’ draft picks, Butler’s four-year pact will include a fifth-year option for 2020. His deal will also be the richest of any of Carolina’s rookie contracts — per Over the Cap, it will be worth nearly $8.397MM, with a signing bonus of about $4.307MM and a first-year cap charge of approximately $1.527MM.

For the Panthers, Butler will add another imposing presence on the interior of a defensive line that already looks strong at that spot. The former Louisiana Tech lineman will join a rotation headed by Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei, with Paul Soliai and others also in the mix.

With their draft picks secured, the Panthers will be able to focus on other things during this weekend’s rookie minicamp. As David Newton of ESPN.com details, the club still has five openings on its 90-man roster, and with 35 tryout players in attendance at the minicamp, there’s a good chance that a handful of those players will earn contracts within the next few days.

This weekend also represents the first opportunity the Panthers will have to see if any of their young players are capable of handling some of the snaps that went to cornerback Josh Norman in 2015, Newton writes in a separate piece. Noting that GM Dave Gettleman used three of his five picks on corners, Newton examines that subplot, along with a few others to keep an eye on in Carolina.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Kessler, Browns, Harrison, Bears

The Browns reportedly did not promise a starting job to Robert Griffin III, and it sound as though rookie third-round pick Cody Kessler has a shot to win the quarterback job in Cleveland. “We truly believe in competition here,” Browns executive Sashi Brown said, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “We’re realistic about where our roster is at that slot and we want to find a long-term answer. I think it’s as critical for everything we’re going to do here.”

Here’s the latest from the North divisions…

  • The Browns did not know cornerback Jamar Taylor would be available ahead of the draft, said Brown, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal (Twitter link). Cleveland acquired Taylor today for a seventh-round pick.
  • Even if the Bears had drafted a quarterback today, they still would have signed backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, GM Ryan Pace told reporters, including Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun Times (Twitter link). Chicago wanted a veteran behind Jay Cutler, hence the signing of Hoyer to a one-year, $2MM deal.
  • Steelers GM Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin both expect James Harrison to return for the 2016, per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazetter (Twitter links). “He’s working out awful hard for a ‘retired’ guy,” said Tomlin.
  • Defensive tackle Vernon Butler contends the Lions told him they would draft him if he were available with the No. 16 pick, but Detroit ultimately chose offensive tackle Taylor Decker. Lions GM Bob Quinn denies that his club promised anything to Butler, who was chosen at No. 30 by the Panthers. Justin Rogers of MLive.com has the full details.

Draft Notes: Smith, Hogan, Cowboys, Broncos

It’s been less than four month since Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith had surgery on his left anterior cruciate ligament. Considering the recovery time for a torn ACL and MCL, many have declared the top prospect out for next season.

However, with the draft quickly approaching, Smith has already started partcipating in some football drills, a promising step in the the 20-year-old’s recovery.

“When you’re in bed for six weeks, not able to move, not able to walk, you’re this dominant force, but yet you have to rely on people to do little things for you,” Smith told Tom Pelissero of USA Today.

“It even makes you appreciate the little things, and being back out on the field – it’s so awesome. Not a lot of people know exactly what I’m doing right now. But I’m killing it.”

Let’s look at some more draft notes from around the NFL…

  • Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan visited the Browns, Chargers and Ravens, tweets NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. The Eagles, Buccaneers, Titans and Raiders also visited the signal-caller at school.
  • The Cowboys are eyeing Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa“He’s certainly one of the best players in this draft. He’ll certainly get strong consideration from us,” Cowboys CEO and Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones told Jon Machete of The Dallas Morning News (via Twitter).
  • According to Troy Renck of The Denver Post (via Twitter), NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said defensive tackles Jarran Reed (Alabama) or Vernon Butler (Louisiana Tech) could “be a fit” for the Broncos at the end of the first round.
  • The Browns have a variety of holes on their roster, leading Mary Kay Cabot to write that the team could trade back again. After having dealt the second-overall pick to the Eagles, Cabot believes the organization could use the eighth selection to acquire more picks.

NFL Mailbags: Colts, Lions, Ravens, Patriots

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson is always a threat to make a big trade, but Mike Wells can’t envision the team moving back in the first round. The team could surely collect extra assets by making such a move, but Wells believes the team has too many holes to justify a trade. Grigson actually echoed this sentiment earlier in the week.

“I don’t think you (trade back) just to hoard more picks,” Grigson said. “I just think that wouldn’t be wise. I think we’ve moved up and moved back in every draft pretty much, so I think if the opportunity is there and there is a player we really like, quote, unquote ‘really like,’ then we’ll be aggressive if we can be.

“Like I said, we’ve got to make these picks count. There’s always picks — I’ve never tried to trade a pick like five years from now but maybe, you never know.”

Let’s take a look at some more notes via ESPN’s weekend NFL mailbags…

  • The Lions seem to have interest in Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Vernon Butler, writes Michael Rothstein. If the team is serious about adding the lineman, the writer believes they could trade back in the first round to secure both Butler and extra picks.
  • With the Rams and Eagles presumably trading up to select quarterbacks, Jamison Hensley now believes there’s a chance that Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey or Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil could fall to the Ravens at number-six.
  • While the Patriots could use their back-t0-back second rounders to move into the first round, Mike Reiss sees that as unlikely. Rather, the writer could envision the organization using a sixth-round pick to move up in the second round.