Shortly after the OTA session, Mike Triplett of the Times-Picayune reported that head coach Sean Payton hoped Butler’s injury would just be a case of a banged knee. Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune got word through a source Wednesday morning that it was far worse.
It’s too early to tell just how much of a blow to Rob Ryan’s new 3-4 defensive scheme Butler’s injury is. Butler followed Ryan to New Orleans from the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent, but the talented pass-rush specialist only played 162 pass-rush snaps in Dallas last season. He was battling Martez Wilson for the starting strong-side outside linebacker spot, but since it’s just June, the competition had yet to unfold.
Triplett and other members of the assembled Saints media working for the Times-Picayune were recently discussing how to rank Butler against the rest of the New Orleans roster. While Butler’s track record was short, his upside lifted his potential ranking.
I made the comment that if that ranking were based solely on predicting the future, I might rank Butler in the top five among defensive players (along with Curtis Lofton, Cameron Jordan, Keenan Lewis and Jabari Greer).
Butler will wait until swelling subsides in his knee before going under the knife to repair the torn ACL, according to the Times-Picayune. After that, Butler will likely land on the injured reserve list.
What will the Saints do?
It’s never a good time for a season-ending injury, but the timing here in Butler's case does have a hint of a silver lining. Since the Saints are months away from the regular season, Ryan will have some time to look at his options.
Wilson will likely be the front-runner at strong-side outside linebacker, but Junior Galette and Will Smith, who have been working at the “Jack” outside linebacker position, according to the Times-Picayune, may also rotate in and split time with Wilson.
The cupboard gets kind of bare after Wilson, Smith and Galette at outside linebacker for the Saints. According to ESPN, the Saints have signed all their rookie draftees and after restructuring safety Roman Harper's contract have just under $5.2 million in available cap space.
There is some room for the Saints to take a look around the free-agent market, but then again, New Orleans may be forced to run with a three-man rotation at both outside linebacker spots until a rookie or someone deeper on the depth chart can step up in Ryan’s new system.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.