It’s that time of the year where we start pivoting from the action being focused on free agency towards the NFL Draft. We are just over a month away after all.
The Cincinnati Bengals made a bit of news in that aspect as they hosted Arizona State linebacker Darien Butler for a workout.
Arizona State linebacker Darien Butler has Top 30 visits with the #Raiders, #Vikings and had a workout with the #Bengals.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 23, 2022
Butler started all four years at Arizona State, and he was a team captain for three of those seasons. That is a huge green flag for a Bengals staff that loves high character players.
Here is what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein has to say about Butler heading into the draft:
Butler trimmed down and became a faster, more impactful player with increased range and better coverage. The three-time captain is the heart and soul of his defense and flies around looking to make a hit. He’s inconsistent at diagnosing the play, and his lack of length and poise stymie his finishing rate as a tackler. Butler’s toughness, cover talent and potential to help on special teams gives him a shot to make a squad despite his lack of physical traits.
On paper, Cincinnati is very set at the linebacker position. Logan Wilson has looked like he will be a stud, and Germaine Pratt stepped up after Akeem Davis-Gaither’s injury part way through the season. Not to mention, that even Markus Bailey and Joe Bachie looked serviceable when called on when injuries piled up.
Why would they work out a linebacker then? The answer is an unfortunate one. Pratt is playing in a contract season, while Wilson, Davis-Gaither and Bailey only have two years left on their contracts.
Butler shouldn’t be presumed to be a starter or take any of these players’ roster spots. What he would likely be viewed as is more of a special teamer, but he could develop into a nickel linebacker role given his speed and coverage ability. Unfortunately, his size gives him a pretty solid ceiling in that aspect given the players he would be covering are often matchup nightmare tight ends.
It will be interesting to see if Butler ends up drafted or if his size makes him a prime undrafted free agent for Cincinnati.