NFL Free Agency: Broncos, Chargers LB Donald Butler Could Be a Match


Dec 22, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers linebacker Donald Butler (56) celebrates during the game against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers won 26-13.Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

To kick off the 2013 free agency period, the Broncos made a pretty sizable splash, but it wasn’t what everyone had expected, safe to say.

The Broncos signed Chargers guard Louis Vasquez to a five-year contract, and it was a solid move on paper but I don’t think anyone expected what the Broncos might have gotten from Vasquez even given his hefty price. Aside from Peyton Manning, Vasquez was the team’s only first-team All-Pro in 2013, and he certainly earned that distinction as one of the best guards in the league right now.

Another position the Broncos have to address where they could look to a young San Diego player is middle linebacker, where 25-year old Donald Butler is a free agent.

Make no mistake about it, the Broncos have to be a bit careful with their free agent signings this year, but the average salary for a linebacker is just over $1.1 million, and the Broncos are among the lowest in the league when it comes to money dished out at the LB position.

The Broncos couldn’t find a winning combination at inside linebacker this year, even though it would have seemed ideal to just slide Wesley Woodyard into that position. Danny Trevathan took over Woodyard’s spot as the weak-side linebacker, and Von Miller is expected to resume his duties as the strong-side backer when he returns. That means that the captain Woodyard could be playing for another team next season, which would suck because he’s a fan favorite and one of the team’s best special teams players.

Either way, the Broncos need to find someone with some teeth at the inside linebacker position, and Butler is an option. He shouldn’t command any more than $5 million per season, and even that would put him among some of the highest paid middle linebackers in the NFL. Butler’s ability to play on third downs increases his value, but his injury history is a bit concerning. The Broncos will likely be looking to free agency as well as the draft to shore up the middle linebacker spot.