Carolina Panthers: Vernon Butler faces uncertain future
Carolina Panthers decline fifth-year option for former first-round pick.
Vernon Butler was the Carolina Panthers first-round pick (No. 30 overall) following their most recent Super Bowl appearance. During the 2016 offseason, then general manager Dave Gettleman rescinded a franchise tag offer to cornerback Josh Norman, but instead of targeting the new hole opened on a near championship winning roster – he opted for defensive line assistance.
Following, the Panthers did select three cornerbacks in a row but only one (James Bradberry) remains with the team – just three years later. Butler is also still in a Panthers uniform but after no starts and a minimal impact, his time with Carolina appears to be ending.
Recently, new general manager Marty Hurney elected to not pick up his fifth-year option. First-round draft choices are given four year contracts with the opportunity for the teams who selected them to capitalize on solid production at a reduced cost. While it doesn’t necessarily indicate Butler is finished – he will become a free agent – it does provide some incentive for the former first-round selection.
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As the team transitions into more of a hybrid defense with some 3-4 fronts expected, Butler should shine being familiar with the responsibilities of a defensive tackle from his time at Louisiana Tech. In addition, the soon to be 25-year old also needs to prove himself worth other teams taking a chance on, while earning a significant pay day.
Carolina could still re-sign Butler as a free agent but depending on his production and what the market value is for a player of his caliber next season remains to be seen. If Butler continues on his current trajectory, it is likely he ends up in another uniform.
Should he enjoy a productive year, the Panthers may have an opportunity to bring him back based on familiarity and opportunity but then Butler would have the advantage with contending offers from other teams and the ability to sign elsewhere.
Essentially, it all depends on what type of season Butler has right now. After accumulating just 45 tackles and two sacks in three years of rotational service – the Panthers (and other teams) likely need to see more out of the young tackle to warrant a new deal.