Carolina Panthers

Panthers won’t pick up Vernon Butler’s fifth-year option. Here’s what it means.

The Carolina Panthers will not pick up the fifth-year option of former first-round draft pick Vernon Butler, the team announced Thursday.

The league’s deadline to make a decision on Butler, a defensive tackle drafted 30th overall in 2016, would have been Friday.

Butler has underwhelmed since entering the NFL out of Louisiana Tech, with just 45 tackles and two sacks as a reserve player in three years.

This season, Butler was a healthy scratch for two consecutive games after failing to produce in a rotational role.

Former general manager Dave Gettleman picked Butler the same spring the team allowed starting cornerback Josh Norman to leave in free agency. The only pick of Gettleman’s from that draft class currently in a key role for the Panthers is corner James Bradberry, the second-round pick that year.

Because the team is not picking up his option, Butler is slated to become a free agent in 2020 — the same year he would have carried a salary cap hit of $7.69 million.

If Butler has a great year, the Panthers could still re-sign him as a free agent. A transition to a more hybrid, multiple defense, featuring more three-man fronts could help Butler find a bigger role.

But declining his option sent a strong message to Butler that he must produce for the Panthers in 2019.

Jourdan has covered the Carolina Panthers as a beat writer since 2016, and froze during Pennsylvania winters as an award-winning Penn State football beat writer before that. A 2014 graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, she’s on a never-ending quest for trick plays and the stories that give football fans goosebumps.
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