New England Patriots CB Malcolm Butler posted a picture on Instagram with the text, “‘Nothing changed but the change’ #BLESSED” and people immediately wondered if something happened on his contract front.
The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe immediately came out and “was told there's nothing new” with “Malcolm Butler's situation,” but that’s no fun. Here’s how we can read too far into Butler’s social media post.
Step 1: Was he hacked?
We’ve already been burned before when Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s Instagram account was hacked. So it’s important to throw out a casual, “he might have been hacked, but...” before moving on into your speculation.
Step 2: What’s in the picture?
Butler appears to be on a plane, wearing sunglasses, a black button down shirt, a gold chain, and a gray blazer. Butler is gazing out the plane window and into the distance.
Butler has been visiting with the New Orleans Saints, so the sunglasses make sense for the climate. Black and gold is also the team colors for the Saints. The simple answer is that Butler is simply flying out from his meeting with the Saints.
The wild card answer is that Butler is wearing black and yellow and is about to pull a Dont’a Hightower and visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in order to drive up his contract value. The wild wild card answer is that Butler is wearing black and yellow to represent the University of Iowa in a Jeff Winger/Community type situation where he has to go back to college before continuing his professional career. Or maybe he’s going to support the Bruins.
Step 3: What about the text?
“‘Nothing changed but the change’ #BLESSED”
There are a few ways to read this. Maybe nothing changed with his team (the Patriots), but the change (bigger contract). Maybe nothing changed with his game (football), but the change (new team). Maybe it means nothing changed with his decision (no contract), but the change (negotiating from a higher contract value point).
When we search the quote in Google, there are two options:
- It’s a Gary Busey quote, apparently? Busey starred in Rookie of the Year, which features the Chicago Cubs. Are the Chicago Bears in play?! Busey was also in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, so are the Oakland Raiders an option?!
- It’s a lyric in a song by Toronto rapper Ramriddlz, “Ain't nothing changed but my chain and my change,” which seems relevant. Is Butler breaking news about a new Canadian NFL franchise? We’ll have to wait and find out.
Step 4: Are there any relevant surrounding events?
The New Orleans Saints really need to improve their cornerback position. They suffered a rash of injuries as starting cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Delvin Breaux played just two and six games, respectively. The team just re-signed Sterling Moore hours before Butler’s Instagram post, who stepped into a starting role for most of the season, while fellow fill-in starter B.W. Webb remains unsigned.
Is Butler’s post related to the Moore signing in any way? Was Butler asking for too much money for the cap-strapped Saints, which led New Orleans to move on to Moore? Or are the Saints trying to pair Moore and Butler to create a secondary flush with former Patriots miracle makers?
Step 5: Talk about how you’re prepared for Butler to leave...
Butler might be an All Pro, Pro Bowl, Super Bowl hero cornerback, but he’s not bigger than the Patriots defensive system. He’s not top five at his position in the league, he’s not used to cover the likes of Julio Jones and A.J. Green, and he’s looking to bypass the restricted free agent process for money that caused issues for the Patriots last season.
“Malcolm Butler’s contract wasn’t a non-issue for the Patriots in 2016,” per MMQB’s Albert Breer. “So part of the Pats/Saints dance: Does the problem grow in New England if he stays on his $3.9 million tender? Especially now that he knows what New Orleans would pay.”
So if Butler wants to take selfies as he leaves New Orleans/Iowa, he can go ahead and do that en route to signing big money contracts that the Patriots won’t give him.
Step 6: ...but give yourself enough slack in case he returns.
Butler might not be top 5 from a reputation standpoint, but he’s definitely in that 6-10 range right now and an encore of his 2016 season would make him a top 5 lock. He’s just 27 years old and entering his prime. He’s durable. He’s able to lock down the likes of Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. He’s also totally within his rights to test the restricted free agent market to see if he can maximize his earnings.
The Patriots are also in a much better position to give Butler the contract he wants than the Saints are- and the Saints probably won’t want to give up their first round pick for him and his high-level contract. And it’s not like the Patriots are afraid to give top contracts to players that play at the top of their position.
Not every number one cornerback can lock down the best receivers in the game while on an island; Darrelle Revis kind of warped the perception of the position with his 2009 season. Butler is an elite player at his position and gosh I hope he’s on a plane back to Boston.