Defensive lineman Victor Butler has filed his CFL retirement papers after accusing the Toronto Argonauts of holding him “hostage” in January.
According to Butler, he signed a standard CFL entry deal – one-year, plus a team option – in February 2016 with the understanding he’d be allowed to pursue NFL opportunities this off-season. When he wasn’t permitted to do so, Butler wrote an opinion piece for 3DownNation expressing his frustration.
“Because to them, I am not a person, my family doesn’t matter and our happiness and well-being are the furthest thing from their mind,” he wrote. “I am a pawn in their game, one where I am expected to shut my mouth know my role and be grateful for whatever scraps they throw me.”
Butler’s piece came on the heels of a statement from Toronto running back James Wilder Jr. that he too had been promised an opportunity to seek NFL employment and would be sitting out the 2018 season. He subsequently signed a contract extension that included a significant pay raise.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie issued a statement shortly after Butler’s piece was published supporting the Argonauts’ decision to hold the players to their contracts.
“I don’t want to be a league of side deals and look amateurish. We’re better than that,” Ambrosie said. “This is one of those topics worthy of some real healthy discussion, and I understand the pros and cons but I think we all agree we should follow the same set of rules.”
But the league also acknowledged that it recently allowed Montreal Alouette defensive lineman Justin Zimmer to sign a contract that included an NFL out clause, in violation of their own policy. Zimmer was released in April and subsequently signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio also reported last week that the CFL could be considering an exception for quarterback Johnny Manziel, who doesn’t want to make a two-year commitment to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“The possibility lingers that the CFL will make a change in order to entice Manziel to come to Canada, allowing him for example to leave after one year, if he plays well enough to attract NFL interest,” Florio wrote.
The 30-year-old Butler racked up 10 sacks with Toronto last season and was named a CFL East all-star. He also helped the Argos beat the Calgary Stampeders 27-24 in the Grey Cup game.
Prior coming to the CFL, Butler spent seven years in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys (2009-12), New Orleans Saints (2013), Arizona Cardinals (2014), Indianapolis Colts (2014) and New York Giants (2015). As a seven-year veteran, Butler would stand to make at least $915,000 USD if signed by an NFL team, compared to the around $60,000 CDN he was scheduled to earn with Toronto in 2018.
The 30-year-old Butler lives in Texas during the off-season with his wife and two children.
Filing his retirement papers does not mean Butler will be free to sign with an NFL club. His rights will remain with the Argonauts through this season until his contract expires in February 2019, at which time he would be able to sign south of the border. He is not filing his retirement papers with the NFL at this time.