This deal has a max value of 51.8 million over 7 seasons, but Butler is highly unlikely to see all that money. Only the 11.15 million dollar signing bonus is guaranteed so the Chargers could conceivably get out of this after 1-year and 11.9 million. However, the Chargers are highly unlikely to give up on him that quickly. That’s a lot of money for one year anyway. More likely, the Chargers will get out of this deal (or attempt to restructure it) after the 3rd year following 2016. That’s when a 12 million dollar roster bonus kicks in. They can get through the first 3 years paying just 19.8 million (base salaries of 3.25 million in 2015 and 4.65 million in 2016), before owing him 32 million over 4 years, including the 12 million dollar roster bonus, from 2017-2020.
All that being said, I think it’s all an overpay. Donald Butler was a solid starter in 2011 and 2012, grading out 15th on Pro Football Focus among middle linebackers in 2011 and 16th in 2012, but he fell all the way to 45th out of 55 eligible in 2013. He’s also missed 23 games in 4 seasons. Meanwhile, the 6.6 million dollar average he’ll make over the next 3 seasons would be the 12th highest average annual salary among middle linebackers and the 7.4 million dollar average salary over the life of the contract would be 10th. They probably didn’t need to give him this much money. I doubt he would have gotten this much money on the open market. A short-term prove it deal would have been much more appropriate for him.