NFL Free Agency is set to begin on March 11th, but teams are already able to negotiate with their own free agents. One such free agent was at the top of a lot of NFL teams’ wish list at inside linebacker, but, he’ll have to be crossed off. The San Diego Chargers retained
signed him to a seven-year
deal that has a max value of $48 million with $28 million guaranteed. He’ll remain the cornerstone of the Chargers’ linebacker group.
Butler was a third-round pick for the Chargers in 2010, but an Achilles tear derailed that season. In 2011, he was tabbed a starter on the inside coming off the injury. He did manage to accumulate 84 tackles in just 652 defensive snaps, leading to a solid 12.9 percent tackle rate in 16 games. Injuries reared their ugly head over the next two seasons, as he missed seven games over that time period. However, his counting numbers from an Individual Defensive Player (IDP) standpoint were there.
In 2012, he recorded 77 tackles in 731 defensive snaps (10.5 percent tackle rate) while also adding three sacks. In 2013, once again, he was cleared for launch on what should’ve been a breakout season. First game out of the gate, he racked up nine solos (13 total tackles). Over the next six weeks, he would miss three games, but in Weeks 4 and 5, you saw the IDP stud once again, with back-to-back games of eight tackles.
The bye week did him some good last season as he missed the Washington game but came back to record six games of five-plus tackles, two of which were double-digit contests. For good measure, he racked up 18 tackles in two postseason games, as well. The 2013 season, even with the injuries, was again solid as he finished with 84 tackles in 717 regular season defensive snaps.
2014 IDP Outlook
Durability is going to be the concern for Butler heading into the season. He didn’t play his best during the 2013 season, as
Pro Football Focus graded him 45th among 55 qualifying inside linebackers. He struggled in pass coverage, allowing 31 catches but only 268 yards. He’ll also need to cut down on the missed tackles, as he’s compiled 24 misses in the last three seasons with 18 of them coming in the last two.
What’s to like about Butler? He’s still an inside linebacker on the rise, as he’s only going to be 26 years old in October. His numbers indicate a borderline elite player. If not for injuries, he certainly would’ve complied 100-plus tackle seasons and his tackle/snap rate is near LB1 territory. I also like his solo:assist ratio, as he’s coming off a 5-to-1 ratio in 2013 which led to a 0.24 fantasy point/snap rate. Staying in San Diego is only going to help his IDP value in 2014. I value him as an LB2 and has the upside to produce 100-plus tackles if he can break the 900 snap mark.
Mike Woellert is a staff writer and part of the Fantasy Sharks IDP Team. For more IDP insight, follow on Twitter @Mike_Woellert.