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How Desmond Trufant’s monster contract with the Falcons affects the Patriots and CB Malcolm Butler

The Patriots road to re-signing Butler just became more difficult.

The Atlanta Falcons have reached a 5-year, $69 million contract with CB Desmond Trufant, in a deal that includes almost $42 million in guarantees. Trufant was the Falcons first round pick in 2013 and was scheduled to play in 2017 under his fifth-year option for $8.03 million.

It remains to be seen if the contract includes a restructure of the fifth-year option, or if these five years are tacked on to the end of the deal, but either way the Falcons are set at cornerback after handing fellow cornerback Robert Alford a 4-year, $38 million contract in December.

Now the Falcons have two cornerbacks that rank in the top 20 of the highest paid at their position, and the New England Patriots and restricted free agent CB Malcolm Butler are surely taking note. The Patriots and Butler will be watching to see if Trufant restructured his 2017 contract from a leverage standpoint.

The two sides watched the Miami Dolphins hand restricted free agent LB Kiko Alonso, but retain Alonso’ 2017 contract value as the 2017 first round restricted tender, instead of increasing it to match Alonso’s contemporaries at the position.

If Trufant signed a deal that effectively retains his 2017 value as similar to his fifth-year option, then that would be another arrow removed from Butler’s quiver as the Patriots would have another example of why Butler shouldn’t expect more to receive market-value for a team-controlled year in his extension.

Trufant’s extension is worth $13.8 million per season, which would make him the fifth-highest paid cornerback in the league. There are a three ways to interpret the possible contract values.

1. If the contract is an extension beyond his 2017 contract, then the deal is essentially a 6-year, $77 million deal when you factor in the fifth-year option, or an average of $12.8 million, which would rank 8th for cornerbacks. The Patriots could use this and say, “we’ll give you a 5-year, $69 million extension beyond your 2017 contract,” which would give Butler a 6-year, $72.9 million deal, or an average of $12.2 million, or the 10th-highest average contract for cornerbacks.

This makes the most sense because it’s similar to the contract extension that CB Patrick Peterson received back in 2014 while still on his rookie contract.

2. If the contract is an extension that restructures his 2017 contract, then the Falcons wiped out Trufant’s agreed to 2017 contract and gave him a pay raise out of the goodness of their heart to make Trufant the fifth-highest paid corner in the league. This would tip the leverage towards Butler in the negotiations, who could point to this deal and said, “the Falcons just gave Trufant a pay-raise, despite having a team-controlled year on his contract,” and he’d have a valid argument for throwing out the value of his restricted free agent year and receiving market-value.

3. If the contract is an extension that includes his 2017 contract, then the Falcons are giving Trufant his $8.03 million for 2017, but the remaining four years are valued at $60.97 million, or an average of $15.2 million per year- the highest non-franchise tag cornerback contract in the NFL. Is Trufant the best cornerback in the league? No, and definitely not while coming off a season-ending injury, so this scenario is unlikely.

The Patriots and Butler are waiting for more terms of this contract to surface (or else head coach Bill Belichick could just make a phone call to old friend Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff) to see how this impacts their negotiations. Because one way or another, this contract extension for Alford will push the negotiations in favor of one party at the table.

In my opinion, the Patriots and Butler could reach a 5-year deal that includes Butler’s 2017 restricted cash flow and would keep Butler under contract through his age-31 season. Butler is reasonably looking for $13 million per year. So what if the contract takes the $3.91 million in year one and tacks on the $13 million for the four remaining years? This would present a 5-year, $55.9 million contract that would rank 11th for cornerbacks in the NFL.

The guaranteed money can sometimes equal the first two and a half seasons of the contract for the top players and the two sides could agree upon the $3.91 million for 2017 and the projected franchise tag for 2018 (roughly $16 million), and add in half the projected $13 million base salary for a guaranteed total of about $27 million, which would rank fourth-most for cornerbacks.

In sum, a 5-year, $56 million contract with $27 million guaranteed would put Butler in the 5th-10th range of cornerback contract values, which roughly aligns with his play on the field. We’ll have to see how Trufant’s contract actually plays out.