The Chargers had a sixth-round pick to spare, having already acquired another one in Thursday's trade with the Miami Dolphins. Also, Smith could afford to send off next year's fourth-round pick, as the Chargers are set to have three third-round selections in 2011 thanks to previous deals.
With ammunition to spare, Smith targeted Butler. The productive inside linebacker from Washington will take Tim Dobbins' spot in the rotation, as Dobbins was shipped to Miami on Thursday. Also, Butler will fill in on special teams and help offset the free-agent defection of Pro Bowler Kassim Osgood.
Butler started 12 games last season, finishing with 94 tackles, 15.5 TFLs, one sack and two interceptions. A team captain, he was also voted second team All-Pac 10.
Butler's a strong run defender well suited to play in San Diego's 3-4 scheme. He also has better coverage skills -- both in man-to-man and zone -- than the Chargers' other inside linebackers. This could give him the opportunity to compete for playing time in the nickel defense.
In the short-term, Butler's playing time will come in sub packages and on special teams. Beyond this year, there's no restricting his impact. Starters Stephen Cooper and Kevin Burnett are both entering the final years of their contracts, so Butler will have the chance to supplant one of them once the season is over.
This helps explain why Smith -- who prefers to prevent problems rather than fix them, whenever possible -- made the move that he did.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.