New England Patriots CB Malcolm Butler doesn’t have to sign his restricted free agent tender of $3.91 million until June 15th, but there’s plenty of incentive for him to sign it before the NFL draft, MMQB’s Albert Breer writes.
“The window for Butler to negotiate with other clubs closes April 21, and really there’s no reason for him not to sign his tender then, since he can still skip the rest of the offseason program (sans the mandatory minicamp) without penalty,” Breer writes in his weekly Game Plan column “If he hasn’t signed his tender by June 15, the Pats can cut his salary to $660,000, so he’d be under contract (unless he’s crazy) by then anyway. And if he signs the tender April 21, that would open a six-day window for the Patriots to negotiate a trade involving him before the April 27 draft. It’s likely the Saints would reenter the picture. The Patriots don’t have a first- or second-round pick, and New Orleans could dangle the 32nd overall pick that they acquired from New England in the Brandin Cooks deal. That pick could carry currency for a quarterback-hungry team looking to deal into the end of Round 1, and get in front of Cleveland or San Francisco while gaining the fifth-year option on the rookie’s contract. So the Patriots could flip that to become a power player on Days 2 and 3, with a very deep draft class.
“There’s a lot to consider. And the idea of a deal makes too much sense for both the Patriots and Saints to not at least consider it. Now, they just need Butler to sign that tender next week.”
In other words, Butler might have heard what the Saints were willing to pay for his extension and, if it was a good enough offer, he would probably have to sign with the Patriots before the draft in order to make a trade happen.
The Patriots enter the 2017 NFL draft without a first or second round pick and Butler could be their trade chip back into the opening rounds. Butler cannot be traded without signing his tender and the Patriots would probably be less willing to trade Butler for a 2018 NFL Draft pick in favor of just keeping him on a cheap deal in 2017 and picking up a 2019 3rd round compensatory pick.
If Butler wants to see a big money deal away from the Patriots in 2017, he needs to sign his tender so he can be traded for immediate draft capital.
Alternatively, Butler might have no interest in what the Saints were willing to offer and would rather play out the 2017 season on his first round tender and enter 2018 free agency to the full market. Breer notes that there are different ways for Butler to approach this uncertainty.
“There was friction between Butler and the Patriots during the 2016 season, and so part of the consideration here for Bill Belichick has to be what version of Butler they’ll get in 2017,” Breer adds. “Remember, Butler now knows what another team (the Saints) is willing to pay him, and thus exactly what he’d be missing out on in playing on the $3.91 million tender. Maybe that’ll motivate him. Or maybe things will become further strained. Or maybe Butler will simply make protecting himself physically a priority. The Patriots have to consider that uncertainty as part of the decision-making here.”
Maybe we’ll see more movement on the Butler front in the coming week.