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Explaining why the Patriots $6-7 million per year offer to CB Malcolm Butler isn’t crazy

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The math checks out.

I have a few updated thoughts on the story about the Patriots reportedly offering CB Malcolm Butler a contract extension for $6-7 million per season.

First off, a mea culpa. I called the Patriots offer “laughable” and kind of assumed it would have been a 5-year contract, similar to that given to CB Stephon Gilmore. Hat tip to Pulpiteer SoxPatsCeltics for explaining why the Patriots offer isn’t ridiculous.

I needed to think about the contract from the perspective of team control.

Year 1 (2016, age 26): $600,000
Year 2 (2017, age 27): $3.9 million (first round restricted free agent tender)
Year 3 (2018, age 28): $14.5 million (franchise tag)
Year 4 (2019, age 29): $17.4 million (second franchise tag at 120% prior year)

If we first look at the 2-year extension projection, through the 2018 season, we see that the Patriots would have been able to retain Butler for $19 million total, or roughly $6.33 million per season- exactly the range that the Patriots reportedly offered, assuming the Patriots offered the deal prior to the 2016 season.

And SoxPatsCeltics highlights that the fourth year of control is noteworthy because the Patriots could theoretically control Butler through 2019 for a total cost of $36.4 million, or an average of $9.1 million per season.

So if the Patriots offered the upper level $7 million for four years instead of $9 million per four years, then the team would be asking Butler to take a pay cut (I’ll let you decide if $2 million per season is a small or large pay cut) in exchange for greater financial security. This is not a ridiculous ask for a team to a player.

The 2015 Denver Broncos defensive tackles are a good reference point. DT Derek Wolfe signed a 4-year extension at just under $9.2 million per season prior to the end of the 2015 season. He wanted immediate financial security.

Wolfe’s teammate and fellow DT Malik Jackson did not extend with the Broncos and entered free agency later that year. Jackson received a contract for $14.25 million per season from the Jacksonville Jaguars. There’s a give-and-take for players wanting immediate financial security and those that are willing to risk injury for greater possible reward.

Now the mental math changes if the Patriots approached Butler in the middle of his Second Team All Pro season, with the 2016 salary pretty much already in the books. Butler would reasonably be less willing to take a pay cut if he already navigated through one of his low-cost seasons; he’d be weighing the pay cut against two possible seasons of injury, versus three seasons of injury prior to the 2016 season.

Additionally, with 2016 theoretically in the books, the 2017-19 cost of control for the Patriots is roughly $35.8 million, or a hair under $12 million per season for three extra years. Offering $6-7 million against those potential earnings is an easy walk for Butler.

The Patriots would have to reduce the offer a two-year extension to make it worth it for Butler- or increase their three-year offer to roughly $9.2 million, which matches the same discount as before.

It will be tough for another team to match Butler’s demands to be paid like Gilmore at this point in time, especially when the team control over his financial standing is so heavy. Butler is under contract for $3.91 million for 2017, unless a team is willing to pay more for his services and give the Patriots their original first round pick. That’s a big asking price.

Side note: The Saints have the 6th smallest amount of cap space in the entire league. While they were connected to Butler and the Patriots during the trade for WR Brandin Cooks, I don’t know if they’re the team that will be able to offer Butler the type of money he wants.

Instead, that $3.91 million will have to be taken into account for any extension that takes place prior to the 2017 season and it will knock down Butler’s total annual value. If Butler wants to get Gilmore-level money, he’ll need to play 2017 under his tender and enter free agency unrestricted in 2018.

Second off, if the part of the story about the Patriots saying they won’t pay a cornerback more than $10 million per season is true, and I trust the Herald’s Jeff Howe, then they lied. Not just because they gave CB Stephon Gilmore $13 million per season, but because they gave CB Darrelle Revis $12 million in 2014. I have no problem with that assertion. If you say you won’t pay more than $10 million for a position, and then go out and pay more than $10 million for that position, that means you told a fib.