One of the developing story lines of the offseason is the contract negotiations between the Patriots and restricted free agent CB Malcolm Butler. The Patriots signed former Bills CB Stephon Gilmore to a 5/$65M contract on the first day of free agency, which seems to have set off the chain of events. That night, I wrote that the Patriots could have a potential problem brewing and it looks like I was right unfortunately.
Source tells me Butler & his camp remain extremely frustrated by Pats position & Gilmore signing. Courting offers elsewhere. Wants new home— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) March 13, 2017
The Patriots went out to get Gilmore because they wanted a #1 CB who matched up against a broader range of receivers. Butler is a terrific cover corner, but his 5’10” frame makes him vulnerable against quality receivers with size. When it comes to covering players like Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, who are 5’10” speedsters, Butler covers them all day. The deficiency with Butler against bigger receivers has to make us think if the Patriots view Butler as a true #1 CB instead of a situational #1. The Patriots and Butler definitely would like to be able to strike a long term deal.
However, Butler has faced the cold reality of restricted free agency. The Patriots hold all the leverage in this scenario and tendered him with the highest possible tender, worth $3.91M. The Patriots aren’t obligated to pay him more than that. Butler and his agent requested the Patriots treat him as an unrestricted free agent, and this was Belichick’s likely response. The $4M number is locked in for 2017 as long as he’s in the Patriots organization. If the team and Butler are looking for a long term deal, they should look at Gilmore’s contract to try to find a solution. Gilmore is owed $42M in the first three years, so taking on $4M for this year would put a possible 4/$46M contract offer.
Given that the two sides have gotten nowhere on a potential long term deal, that’s left Butler and his agent desperately looking for a team to negotiate with.
Agent for Pats RFA CB Malcolm Butler is contacting teams trying to find one to part w/1st rnd pick to sign him (which is his RFA tender)...— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 13, 2017
If I was looking to take Malcolm Butler away from the Patriots, I would not put the ball in the Patriots hands by giving him an offer sheet. In that case, the Patriots can each match and keep Butler long term, or they can overpay and obliterate their cap room and lose the first round pick. The only team that can afford to do that is the Cleveland Browns, but if they signed away Butler it would cost them the first pick in the draft. Teams that would want to ensure they’re getting Malcolm Butler for the long term would be better off to trade for him, similar to when the Patriots landed Wes Welker in 2007. If an idiot GM wants to sign Butler to an offer sheet, more power to them because it will resolve this dispute that best benefits the Patriots.