The New England Patriots have a lot of young talent on their defense. Most of those players – like linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins – are still on their rookie contracts, therefore currently saving the Patriots a lot of money and salary cap space.
Another special example for this is cornerback Malcolm Butler.
The 2015 Pro Bowler has been signed by New England as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2014 and rose to fame in Super Bowl XLIX, recording the game-clinching interception. Butler became a starter on the Patriots the following season and proved that his Super Bowl performance was no fluke.
Butler’s salary salary cap numbers do not reflect this, though (via patscap.com):
Now official that Malcolm Butler now counts zero against Pats salary cap because of the Rule of 51. His 600K cap is tied for 52nd highest.
As part of the three-year contract he signed in May 2014, Butler's cap hit this season is only the 52nd highest on the roster, tied with Tyler Gaffney, Brock Vereen, Joe Vellano and Cameron Fleming. This means that the 26-year old does currently not count against New England’s salary cap, as the league operates under the "Rule of 51" until the opening day of the 2016 regular season: only a team’s 51 highest cap hits count.
Butler will become a restricted free agent in 2017 and eventually will sign a long-term contract whether in Foxboro or some place else. Looking at his current status as well as his role on the roster, though, we can once again see how much of a diamond in the rough the Patriots were able to find – and how valuable a player Butler is both on and off the field.