In the final year of his rookie contract, inside linebacker Donald Butler is at the top of the San Diego Chargers’ list of players that need to be locked up long term at the end of the season. A third-round pick in 2010, Butler has grown into one of San Diego’s top playmakers on defense and has become an every-down player, as well as the vocal leader of this defense. However, one area where Butler could improve on is his ability to stay healthy and stay on the field.
Butler missed practice again on Wednesday after re-aggravating a groin injury last week that kept him out of San Diego’s Monday night win over the Indianapolis Colts. The game was the second missed by Butler this season; he sat out against the Tennessee Titans in week 3 due to the same groin injury. Butler also missed four games in 2012 due to a groin injury.
Including his rookie year that was missed due to an Achilles injury, Butler has missed 22 games in less than 3 ½ seasons. That’s certainly something to think about when the team looks to re-sign him.
Butler is too important for the team to let him walk in free agency, but his injury history is certainly a concern. The Bolts have let too many of their top home-grown players leave in free agency only to find greater success somewhere else – Drew Brees, Vincent Jackson, Michael Turner, Darren Sproles. However, they’ve also re-signed some of their injury-prone players to deals that arguably weren’t worth it in the end due to the number of missed games – Jared Gaither, Marcus McNeill, Malcom Floyd (maybe).
Negotiations between Butler and the Bolts likely won’t resume until after the season, which gives Butler plenty of time to get healthy and state his case for a big contract as well as give the Chargers plenty of time to evaluate his worth to the team. Still, we can agree that a healthy Butler is too important to the team. An injured Butler, though, maybe not so much.