The San Diego Chargers last used the franchise tag in 2011 for Vincent Jackson, a move that backfired on the A.J. Smith regime. If contract negotiations stall, Donald Butler should receive the Chargers’ franchise tag.
Butler’s not the sexy rush linebacker with the record sack totals, but his consistency and maturity is on Eric Weddle’s level. He plays smart and he immediately provides leadership to a young defense needing more seasoning. The Chargers have been eyeing Butler for an extension since last offseason, but hasn’t hammered anything out. His play in 2014 has the league ready to pounce if the Chargers decide to part ways with him.
Butler needs to be locked up for the future, but it depends on how the new regime wants to stretch their dollars in 2014. No matter how this goes, the Chargers know they haven’t had a homegrown impact player since their last franchise player, Vincent Jackson. All the egos involved hindered the entire team’s success and set it back a few years.
The entire situation adversely affected Philip Rivers’ 2011 season, making it one of the worst seasons in his career. After Smith allowed Jackson to walk into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers locker room with a major payday, Rivers had been throwing to journeymen. The Chargers never really found a no. 1 receiver until 2013 with Keenan Allen.
This time around, there is dialogue between the camps and we should hear soon how the Chargers will play it out when free agency opens on March 11. Because the Chargers are expected to be slightly over the new $130 million salary cap, the team really doesn’t want to pay $10 million on a one-year deal on Butler. That said, they know how valuable he is to John Pagano and the defense’s future success as a unit.