The New England Patriots are not going to negotiate or reach an extension with CB Malcolm Butler unless the cornerback brings the next deal to the table. Not because the Patriots don’t want Butler around- they absolutely do- but it’s because the Patriots don’t want to accidentally lowball Butler to a point where the cornerback feels insulted, according to the Herald’s Jeff Howe.
“There hasn’t been any movement toward a contract extension between Butler and the Patriots, according to sources,” Howe writes. “The Pats haven’t made any offers since the start of training camp, which is when they have a history of extending proposals to impending free agents.
“One explanation for the lack of offers: The Patriots don’t want to extend a financial package that is well beneath Butler’s desired outcome. Considering they would indeed like to reach a resolution with Butler, who is also open to re-signing, there’s no sense in doing something now that could have negative implications in March, if it gets to that point.”
This is not a new strategy for the Patriots. They’ve taken this route in the past with FS Devin McCourty and LB Dont’a Hightower, where both players have been allowed to negotiate deals with other teams, bring their price point back to New England, and then let the Patriots counter with a reasonable offer.
This is an extremely intentional strategy by the front office, as one former executive explained.
“What they do with a lot of these guys, is let the player see his market value,” former Patriots exec Mike Lombardi said about the Patriots, via ESPN. “Because if he’s out there on the market, and he does come back at a deal that he feels is worthwhile -- like Devin McCourty came back and other players have come back -- then the player isn’t upset that he feels like he’s gotten ripped off. He’s out there on the market, he knows what his value is, his agent has laid it out: ‘You can get X amount from this team, X amount from the Patriots, you make the call.’”
The Patriots arguably started down this path with Butler as he negotiated deals with the New Orleans Saints to find out his price point. Howe reported back in April that Butler and the Saints had reached a 4-year deal worth more than $50 million, which, when you factor in the $3.9 million restricted year of Butler’s contract, would put the cornerback among the highest paid in the league over the final three years of his deal.
New England doesn’t want to pay Butler $15 million per year, like the Saints were apparently willing to offer, but they also want to keep the door open for Butler to potentially return. If anything, this shows that the Patriots are interested in retaining Butler to play alongside Stephon Gilmore to form a super-duo in the secondary.
There is risk to waiting to strike a deal. Butler assumes injury risk that could tank his contract extension every week. But the longer Butler doesn’t sign a deal and remains healthy, the more expensive his next contract climbs with each passing week.
Maybe we’ll see an extension with Butler in September if he’s concerned about his preseason performance. Maybe we’ll see an October trade like we saw with Jamie Collins so the Patriots could recuperate a third round pick in 2018 instead of in 2019. Maybe Butler will play out his contract, hit free agency, not find what he’s looking for on the market, and then come back to the Patriots to play out the rest of his career.
A lot can happen. Just don’t expect the Patriots to bring the next contract offer to the table.