The new league year begins next month, and with it comes the start of the free agency period in the NFL. The Colts have several guys who will become free agents at that point, but there may be some of them worth re-signing. We’ll be taking a look at each one of them and discussing whether it would be a good idea for the Colts to bring them back or not. We continue today with Darius Butler.
The Indianapolis Colts signed Darius Butler early in the 2012 season after the defensive back had spent stints with the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers in the NFL. With the Colts, however, he immediately impressed and carved out a nice role, having just completed his fifth season with the team. He has played in 67 games and has started 24, recording 214 tackles, 41 passes defensed, 12 interceptions (three returned for touchdowns), and six forced fumbles. In 2016, Butler played in 12 games (starting seven) and recorded 33 tackles, seven passes defensed, three picks, and a forced fumble, ranking first on the team in interceptions and tied for second in passes defensed. He’s had a nice impact in Indianapolis, having earned two new contracts after originally signing with the team.
Butler’s role with the Colts has mostly been as a slot cornerback, where he has excelled. He was just as good as ever while in the slot in 2016, and he’s a valuable nickel cornerback to have around. He’s not good when asked to start outside, but the emergence of Rashaan Melvin (plus Patrick Robinson) allowed the Colts flexibility to keep Butler in the slot. But an interesting development also happened in 2016: Butler started playing some safety.
We saw it in training camp and filed it away, and it showed up during the season. By the end of the season, Butler was seeing quite a bit of action at the spot and actually started at safety in weeks 15 and 16 (he was inactive in week 17). After the season ended, he said that he’s ready to make the full-time transition to safety.
That’s not really a bad thing, either, since Butler had quite a bit of success there last year. He won’t be an All-Pro safety, but he could be a very solid guy to have around, particularly because of his versatility. The Colts (or whoever signs him) would have a guy who’s a good slot cornerback and a capable safety, giving them flexibility in the secondary.
The Colts need to give consideration to their safety position this offseason, especially since they can’t be relying on T.J. Green to be the full-time starter. That’s not suggesting that they should get rid of him but rather suggesting that they can’t enter 2017 with Green as the unquestioned starter, just hoping that he’ll be much better than he was as a rookie. They need to have another option, and with Mike Adams and Darius Butler both set to become free agents, they’ll need to consider whether one (or both) of them is that option. The rationale for going with Butler over Adams (if indeed the Colts do choose between one or the other) is that Butler is younger (he’ll be 31 next season while Adams will be 36) and that he’s got versatility to play cornerback and safety.
The question at safety might really be about how much the Colts want to spend to upgrade the position. Are they looking to add a big-money free agent or spend a top draft pick on the position, or are they just looking for cheaper, solid, and serviceable guys to handle it for 2017? If it’s the latter, then Darius Butler and/or Mike Adams would seem to be some of the best options out there for Indianapolis.