The New England Patriots came up just short of their ultimate goal in 2017 as the team lost Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles. In order to get back onto the top of the NFL mountain, the team – on and off the field personnel – will have to quickly turn the page to get into a position to field the best possible team in 2018; one that will be able to once again compete for the world championship.
A big part of creating such a team is mastering the upcoming free agency. And if judged by the list of free agents to be, New England's front office will be busy over the next few weeks. Also over the next few weeks, we will take a look at those free agents to find out who might or might not get re-signed; and who should be a part of the 2018 Patriots. Today, we'll continue the series with cornerback Malcolm Butler.
#21 CB Malcolm Butler
2018 opening day age: 28
2017 playing time: 19 games (16 regular season + 3 playoffs); 92.4% defensive snaps
2017 statistics: 70 tackles, 2 interceptions, 13 passed defensed, 3 forced fumbles, 1.0 sack
2017 cap number: $3.91 million
Malcolm Butler's 2017 season - which he played on his restricted free agency tender - was a down year for him compared to his very good 2016 season: The 27-year old was consistently inconsistent, especially in one-on-one coverage. Nevertheless, he still played over 95% of the Patriots’ defensive snaps and registered two interceptions as the starter opposite high-priced offseason acquisition Stephon Gilmore.
Of course, that was only the case through the first 18 games: Game number 19, the Super Bowl, saw Butler play only one snap on special teams and register no additional defensive playing time despite the unit getting torched. A disappointing end to a relatively disappointing season by the hero of Super Bowl XLIX - and likely the end of his Patriots tenure as well.
The combination of his Super Bowl benching, up-and-down play in 2017 and him being one of the biggest names on the free agency market does not bode well for New England’s prospects of re-signing him - if the team would want him back in the first place. Ultimately, Butler will likely leave the Patriots after four seasons for greener pastures elsewhere and New England will move forward with a core of Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and potentially an early-round draft selection.
Projection: Butler leaves the Patriots on a multi-year contract with another team that will pay him around $8.0 to $10.0 million per season.