Last year in training camp, we saw the Colts begin to experiment with using Darius Butler at safety for the first time. Fast forward to this offseason and Butler was given a new one-year contract with the Colts... as a safety.
It’s been a smooth transition for the veteran defensive back, as he began to play safety more and more last season, starting around the midway point of the year. He looked the part, and after the regular season ended he said that he wanted to make the switch full-time.
He was an important guy for the Colts to bring back because of his experience, his versatility, and his play, and the team was happy to have him back.
“Well I think that what you recognize right away is everybody in the football side of it in the building was really excited to have Darius back,” defensive coordinator Ted Monachino told Colts.com recently, “and the reason is similar to what you’re talking about with T.J. [Green] and with Clayton [Geathers]: those two guys can do a lot of different things. Darius Butler is the guy that can unwind all those things that we need them to know, and he’s a guy that has become a great range, space safety for us. I think he’s just now starting to develop into a second career as a safety. So we’re really excited to have him back and know how valuable he is, especially in the meeting rooms and in the locker room, and then with what he can do for us in the deeper parts of the field on gameday.”
Not only was Butler worth bringing back for his play at safety (especially considering the Colts’ need at the position), but Monachino also mentioned the opportunity to help he can provide for Clayton Geathers and T.J. Green in meetings and in the locker room. That factor shouldn’t be ignored either, as having a veteran there to help with those things is valuable.
And in case there was a question, Butler will be a safety with the Colts - though they may still utilize his position flexibility.
“Well I think that it all depends on the depth and it depends on how the roster shakes out,” Monachino said, “and that also goes day by day. If we’ve got a nickel with a broken chinstrap and we need a nickel to go in the game, Darius Butler’s got a lot of experience to do that. So I think that his role will be one that has some variation, but I think that primarily he’ll be a safety.”
That’s about what was expected: Butler’s main role with the Colts will be at safety, but the team will keep their options open and use Butler if they need a nickel cornerback. Butler has played very well in that role in recent years, so while it seems Indy is set on finding other options at cornerback, if there’s an injury or something like that we could see Butler slide down into the slot from his safety position. That flexibility adds to his value, but he’ll be a safety first and foremost.
At the position, Butler will join two young players in Clayton Geathers and T.J. Green. It’s likely that Geathers and Butler will be the starters, but Green will still get snaps regardless. The Colts like to use Geathers in the box some and may use Butler in the slot some, so Green will definitely have a role still. But bringing back Butler was key, if for no other reason than to take some of the pressure off of Green in his second year, since he won’t have to immediately turn things around and have the pressure of being the full-time starter. Even at safety, Butler gives the Colts flexibility.