Entering the offseason, the New England Patriots had two defensive cornerstones headed for free agency: linebacker Dont’a Hightower (unrestricted) and cornerback Malcolm Butler (restricted). The Patriots were able to re-sign Hightower to a four-year contract while placing the first round tender on Butler.
While this secured the team’s rights to keep the Pro Bowl cornerback for another year, Butler and his camp were hesitant to sign it – hoping, instead, for long-term contract that would pay him more than the tender’s $3.91 million. In order to get that deal, Butler looked outside of New England and found a possible suitor in the New Orleans Saints.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the two sides even agreed to a contract. However, there is only one problem: With Butler having signed his tender sheet last week and New Orleans reportedly unwilling to part with one of its high-round draft picks, the 27-year old appears to stay with the Patriots:
#Saints & Butler have a multi-year deal agreed to, pending trade. At this point, trade appears unlikely from all sides.
Butler likely staying in New England secures the Patriots one of the NFL’s best defensive secondaries for at least one season. Together with free agency signing Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe, Butler will form the core of the team’s cornerback groups – a group that at least on paper seems to be able to shutdown opposing offenses’ aerial attacks no matter the receivers it faces.
Does this mean that the Butler-saga is over? At least for now, it appears to be. While there is still a chance that another team offers the Patriots a trade they cannot refuse, as Rapoport notes, it seems likely that New England will keep its shutdown cornerback for at least one more season. The saga will then see its next chapter written in 2018, when Butler is set to enter unrestricted free agency, at the latest.
Edit: The contract was valued at more than $50 million, per the Herald’s Jeff Howe:
Malcolm Butler may have to wait a year for a massive payday if Saints don't strike. Butler, Saints had a deal in place worth more than $50M.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) April 24, 2017
That’s big money if over the span of four years, which is likely. If it were over five years, the Patriots and Butler probably would have already agreed to the terms for $10 million per year.