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Reiss: Do the Patriots value Malcolm Butler like a true #1 cornerback?

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The Patriots haven’t reached an extension with their star cornerback. Here’s a big reason why.

The New England Patriots haven’t reached an extension with CB Malcolm Butler in part because there’s a core difference in understanding of Butler’s value, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss in his weekly notes. The Patriots acquired CB Stephon Gilmore and gave him #1 cornerback money, while not really negotiating with the Second Team All Pro Butler.

“My sense is they [the Patriots] view Butler a cut below [a #1 corner],” Reiss notes. “Somewhere between Logan Ryan (reported average of $10 million per season in Tennessee) and Gilmore ($13 million per season). So if both sides are committed to remaining in New England, and focus on striking a compromise, that's the sweet spot to hit.”

Reiss suggests a middle ground contract where Butler earns $11.5 million per season beyond his $3.91 million tender for 2017, with a good chunk of the money guaranteed because of his proven value and ability.

It is curious that the Patriots don’t envision Butler to be an elite #1 cornerback. He doesn’t have the same athleticism or ball skills like Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman, but at the same time he’s definitely better than Logan Ryan, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Byron Maxwell.

This sets the floor for Butler’s contract at $10 million per season and the ceiling at Gilmore’s $13 million, as Reiss suggests. The problem is that there are only two cornerbacks that fall between Gilmore (ranks 7th, $13 million APY) and Maxwell (ranks 10th, $10.5 million APY): Giants CB Janoris Jenkins ($12.5 million APY) and Lions CB Darius Slay ($12.0 million APY).

Butler and Jenkins were both named Second Team All Pro in 2016 and Butler is 17 months younger. Both have six interceptions over the past two seasons; Butler has 31 passes defended, while Jenkins has 33 passes defended. I think Jenkins is a fair contract reference point for Butler, from Butler’s negotiating stance.

If the Patriots offer Butler a 5-year, $54 million contract, he will be the 10th highest paid cornerback in the league at $10.8 million per year and will be ahead of the Maxwell and Ryan tier of elite #2 cornerbacks. The annual contract should be palatable for the Patriots, too- wouldn’t most pay $800,000 more per year for Butler over Ryan?

The fact that Butler’s agent says the Patriots haven’t discussed an extension since last year is more concerning. The two sides will need come to terms because Butler has no incentive to sign his tender before June 15th- when the Patriots can rescind their $3.91 contract offer in favor of a $660,000 contract- which prevents the Patriots from trading Butler for a 2017 draft pick.

Staying on the subject of potentially replacing players, Reiss highlights the cheap contract that TE Martellus Bennett received from the Green Bay Packers. Reiss notes that the Patriots “were moving on from Bennett regardless for a younger option.” The Patriots acquired TE Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts.

Reiss also shares an injury and receovery update for TE Rob Gronkowski and a training update for S Jordan Richards. Read it here.