On March 11, Chargers linebacker Donald Butler was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
Notice the past tense there?
The Bolts, who were never shy in their desire to keep Butler around (a far cry from the previous regime, who made it seem like one word of public praise would be used as a bargaining chip and therefore must be avoided), and Butler agreed to a multiple-year contract extension on Friday.
“We’re excited to have Donald remain a San Diego Charger,” said General Manager Tom Telesco in a statement. “We’ve said all along that we’d like to keep as many of our own players as possible and Donald is a great example of that. He’s a big part of what we are building on defense and he’s not only one of the leaders of our defense on the field, but his teammates voted him a team captain last year showing that he’s also a leader inside the locker room.”
Financial terms of the deal were not available. The Chargers are up against a tough salary cap situation, but made retaining Butler their top off-season mission. The inside linebacker calls the defensive plays, and after recovering from an early-season groin injury, played at a Pro Bowl level.
It also helps that Donald wanted to stay in San Diego, and not just because of the (usually) spectacular weather.
“Staying in San Diego was my goal and I’m really blessed to have this opportunity," said Butler in a statement. "We’ve got a very good young defense and I look forward to being a part of it for years to come as we continue to grow and get even better.”
Butler was a key component in the development of fellow ILB Manti Te'o, the Chargers' 2nd round pick from last year's NFL Draft. Te'o came to town with a load of public interest in his personal life. It was Butler, whom Te'o calls his "Big Bro," who really helped Manti adjust and grow on the field.
Butler was ranked by NFL.com as the 29th-best available free agent, and the 3rd-best linebacker.