- Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer
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One priority in free agency for the San Diego Chargers is re-signing middle linebacker Donald Butler. The two sides broke off discussions on a long-term deal during the 2013 season. But with the Chargers looking to get something done before the start of free agency on March 11, preliminary discussions are in the works, with the potential of talks picking up at the NFL scouting combine this week in Indianapolis.
A third-round draft selection in the 2010 draft, Butler is considered a core player for the Chargers. He missed four games in 2013 but finished second on the team in tackles with 84 during the regular season. And in the playoffs, Butler elevated his game for the Chargers, a good sign for an organization that wants to make the University of Washington product a piece of the team's foundation.
With Monday being the first day teams can begin using franchise-tag designations, the Chargers could consider placing an exclusive franchise-tag designation on Butler, although they would likely wait until closer to the March 3 deadline for using the tag designations.
The projected salary for franchised linebackers is expected to be around $10 million, which is more than San Diego would like to pay Butler in terms of an annual salary. Using the franchise-tag tender designation would also hamper the Chargers in securing other free agents because they are tight against the cap.
However, if negotiations are at an impasse, the Chargers could use the exclusive franchise tag to make sure Butler cannot negotiate with other teams while the two sides continue to work on a multiyear deal.