When Victor Butler signed a contract with the Saints I think there was a bit of disappointment for him in how the free agency period went. Despite being an up and coming player that was previously a reserve with great promise he just didn’t garner much interest on an open market with starter’s money. After some waiting and numerous visits, Butler re-joined his defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in New Orleans with a 2 year $3 million contract. Without question that was less money than he was hoping to get. While the Saints opportunity gave me a chance at being a starter, it did not pay him unquestioned starter money. The hope for Butler with that player voidable option in year two was that he played so well in that first year that he could void the deal and have better tape to command more money on an open market the second time around. Unfortunately he tore his ACL before the season began, and the second year of that contract became a blessing safety net. But now he’s gone from an up and coming back up with great potential to damaged goods. The question becomes how he will rebound.
In addition to Butler going down, Will Smith suffered the same injury. Those two were penciled in as the starters at outside linebacker prior to injury. Those injuries forced the Saints to trade for Parys Haralson (still on the squad after re-signing to a 1 year deal) and start Junior Galette, who had a monster season and responded with double digit sacks. So while before Butler came into a situation where most assumed he was the starter, he’s now vying to unseat returning starters that performed well in Haralson and Galette. Haralson is recovering from a much more recent serious injury too (torn pectoral), though, so the opportunity is there if Butler is recovered and show himself healthy. It won’t be easy, though, as Keyunta Dawson, Rufus Johnson, Ronald Powell and a slew of undrafted rookies are battling for roster spots as well. The competition is real and significant.
A year makes a big difference and more questions surround Victor Butler’s place on the team than ever, but there’s still a seat for him at the table if he can get healthy and perform to his ceiling potential.