Former Panthers first-round pick Vernon Butler is signing a one-year deal with the Raiders, according to NFL Network's Mike Garofolo. The veteran defensive linemen spent the last two years with the Bills, where he made 10 starts.
The 30th overall pick in the 2016 Draft, the 6-foot-4, 330-pound Butler was expected to be a key contributor to a Panthers defense that months earlier had helped Carolina win the franchise's second NFC title. Butler failed to provide an early spark, however, as he recorded just two sacks while not starting a single game during his first three seasons.
Butler enjoyed his best season in 2019. After Carolina declined to pick up his fifth-year option, he responded by recording a career-high six sacks, three forced fumbles and 32 tackles (seven for loss) at defensive end. Despite his success, the Panthers allowed Butler to test free agency, where he came to terms with the Bills on a two-year deal. He made nine starts in 2020 before receiving just one start last season.
Butler was likely signed to replace Solomon Thomas, who remains unsigned after recording 3.5 sacks during his only season in Las Vegas. Johnathan Hankins and Gerald McCoy are two other former Raiders defensive linemen who have yet to be signed on the open market.
The Raiders have been extremely active in free agency. Last week, they traded their top two picks in this year's draft to acquire All-Pro receiver Davante Adams. Las Vegas' other notable free agent acquisitions include linebackers Chandler Jones and Micah Kiser, and cornerbacks Anthony Averett and Darius Phillips.
Las Vegas is coming off a 2021 season that saw them make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The Raiders will be led in 2022 by first-year head coach Josh McDaniels, who won six Super Bowls as a member of the Patriots' coaching staff that included three titles as New England's offensive coordinator.