The New England Patriots don’t have a first or second round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and the expectation was for the franchise to flip QB Jimmy Garoppolo or CB Malcolm Butler prior to the draft in exchange for early selections.
Well, ESPN’s Adam Schefter is steadfast in his report that Garoppolo will remain with the Patriots in 2017, and it’s looking like Butler will remain in New England, too, per MMQB’s Peter King.
“The Saints (picking 11, 32, 42, 76, 103 in the first three rounds) are still interested in Butler, but someone familiar with their thinking believes they are leaning toward keeping their first three picks,” King writes in his weekly column. “The Saints believe that their board between 25 and 75 has a slew of players capable of contributing immediately, with grades close to each other, and the thought of dealing one or more picks for Butler, then paying him a huge contract, is less attractive than it once seemed.”
Butler is an All Pro cornerback, but the Saints might want to wait and see if a top cornerback prospect like Marshon Lattimore or Gareon Conley falls to #11, or if Kevin King, Chidobe Awuzie, or Tre’Davious White is available at #32 or #42.
None of these players would contribute in 2017 at the same level as Butler, but they present an athletic and physical ideal of a #1 cornerback. The Patriots opted to sign CB Stephon Gilmore (size, athleticism) for the same reasons that the Saints might want to try and draft a prospect.
What does this mean for Butler and the Patriots? Well, Butler is likely to play 2017 under his restricted free agent tender of $3.91 million. Perhaps Butler could be a midseason trade like LB Jamie Collins if a team suffers an injury or is willing to pay a high price for his skills.
And don’t count out a possible extension between the Patriots and Butler. All seemed lost between the team and Logan Mankins when the guard was a restricted free agent, but the two sides reached an extension the following year. Perhaps teams around the league have the same value on Butler that the Patriots do, and maybe Butler would rather take the guaranteed money this year instead of risk potential injury and a decrease in value.
We’ll find out if King’s sources are correct as the draft approaches.