LB Donald Butler released by Chargers, thanks team for 'ride'

Brunell not surprised Chargers released LB Butler (1:42)

ESPN NFL analyst Mark Brunell breaks down why the Chargers parted ways with linebacker Donald Butler. (1:42)

The San Diego Chargers released linebacker Donald Butler on Thursday and thanked him for his service.

Butler, 27, completed his fifth season in San Diego in 2015. He had 43 tackles, a half-sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Butler signed a seven-year, $51.8 million contract extension with San Diego in 2014. He was scheduled to earn $4.65 million in base salary in 2016, and his contract carried a cap hit of $9.28 million. His contract was scheduled to run through the 2020 season.

Butler thanked the fans, his teammates and ownership for his tenure in San Diego.

Butler started nine games in 2015 and 62 of his 71 games with the Chargers. He made just nine starts last season as he was supplanted by rookie Denzel Perryman.

Last season was the first in which he finished with fewer than 70 tackles. He had a career-best 96 in his rookie season (2011) and registered five sacks total in his first two seasons. He has just two sacks in the past three seasons.