With Rich covering how the Bowman extension news affect negotiations for Patriots LBs Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, I figured it would be a good time to address the topic with another core player in Malcolm Butler. Since Butler entered the league as an undrafted free agent, Butler is allowed to work a contract extension with the team after 2 years instead of 3 years for draft picks.
He’s already a very storied career so far, starting with the interception that sealed the Patriots Super Bowl XLIX win as a rookie and building on that with a Pro Bowl selection in Year 2. Despite his humble beginnings and fight to the NFL, Butler has established himself as a top-25 corner in the league and could be looking at significant pay day should he reach free agency. Quality corners are tough to find and expensive to retain when other teams such as the Giants pay exorbitant amounts of money to a corner with promise, but inconsistency.
This year, Butler is playing on a $600k cap hit and assuming a first round restricted free agent tender, could be playing for $4.1M over the next 2 years. Based on level of play, I do think he’s in the range of Brandon Flowers (prime), Sean Smith, and David Amerson. Flowers got $9.1M APY, Smith $9.5M, and Amerson $8.237M. That’s the starting point for negoontiations, which is about $9M. Butler is 26 years old, so he’s looking to get paid now and possibly another one in his 30s. So I think the starting point is 3/$27M for new money.
If you combine that with the $600k salary in 2016, Butler could be had on a 4/$30M deal that pays him nicely in the latter portion of the deal if he continues to develop. That deal would give Butler $29.4M new money over 3 years, worth $9.8M per season in new money but lower it to $7.5M a year. It could work for both sides because Butler gets paid while the Patriots keep his overall APY down for the duration of the deal. Patriots would have to really sell the new money angle to Butler and his agent.
The next negotiations come down to overall guarantees. In their 4-year deals, the guaranteed totals were $20.5M, $20M, and $18M respectively for Flowers, Smith, and Amerson. Looking at Butler’s deal, which is considered leaving dollars on the table for a pay raise in 2016 but pay him significantly higher in new money, I think you offer about $18M guaranteed on a $30M deal. That’s significantly higher from a percentage standpoint, but worth the tradeoff for a lower average. In the free agent market, I do think Butler could easily break $10M average after 2017. While Hightower, Collins, and even Jabaal Sheard get more attention because they’re free agents after the season, a Malcolm Butler extension deal is still a story line for camp. So here’s a basic idea for what I would propose in a hypothetical Butler deal:
2016: $600k salary gtd, $9M signing bonus, $1M bonus/incentives (15,625 per game bonus, $500k bonus y, for Pro Bowl/All-Pro, $250k workout bonus), $3.85M cap hit, $10.6M money ($10M new)
2017: $4.4M salary gtd ($5M salary and $400k workout bonus), $1M bonus/incentives (same as 2016), $7.65M cap hit, $5.4M money,
2018: $3M roster bonus on 3rd day of league year, $3M salary, $1M bonus/incentives, $9.25M cap hit (declining bonus saves $4.75M), $7M money
2019: $6M salary, $1M bonus/incentives $9.25M cap hit, $7M money
There is a lot of upside to this deal from both sides. If Butler continues his development, he’ll be easily worth the $9.25M cap hits in 2018-19 with the cap going up. Butler pockets over $10M this year in this deal and his roster spot through 2017 is guaranteed as it would have been if nothing happens. At the same time, it gives the Patriots an escape clause where after two years they can cut Butler loose in 2018 if he doesn’t develop enough and the team saves just under $5M on the 2018 cap after taking a $4.5M dead hit.
There’s always the possibility that Butler outdoes these numbers in his next major contract considering the cap is increasing quite a bit. Based on how the deal is structured, I think this is a deal that benefits both sides although it is very team-friendly. Butler gets paid an average $9.8M in new money in a 3-year extension and the Patriots play Butler for what could wind up as a bargain.