The New England Patriots had a busy day on Monday. Not only did they place the franchise tag on guard Joe Thuney, they also saw three of their free agents leave: linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins signed new contracts with the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions, respectively, while tight end Benjamin Watson announced his retirement from pro football. Amid all the chaos, the team also made another move that flew under the radar a bit.
According to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, the Patriots have placed the second-round tender on restricted free agent Adam Butler to keep him from entering the open market on Wednesday. In turn, he will be on the team’s books with a salary cap hit of $3.26 million — unless, of course, the team signs him to a contract extension or another club adds him via an offer sheet that New England refuses to match within a five-day window.
Given his role in 2019 and continuous growth over his three seasons in the NFL, the Patriots’ decision to tender Butler at the second-round level is not a surprising one. After all, he served as a core member of the team’s defensive tackle rotation last season and has proven his value to the defense as a stout interior penetrator capable of taking on double-teams. Placing the second-round tender on the 25-year-old should therefore shy away teams from going after him, lest they want to give up compensation.
After all, such is the nature of restricted free agency: in case another team signs a tendered player to an offer sheet, his club has five days to either match it or receive the draft pick appropriate for the tender as compensation. In Butler’s case, this will be a second-round pick. While the cost associated with this level is significantly higher than the $2.13 million original round tender, for example, it likely limits competition for his services — or eliminates it altogether.
Butler originally joined the Patriots back in 2017, when the team signed him as an undrafted rookie. The Vanderbilt product quickly made a name for himself by carving out a role on the team’s 53-man roster and serving as a depth interior pass rusher. While he continued to be used as a rotational player, Butler improved every year and became more than “just” an impact player in the passing game. In 2019, finally, he had his best campaign to date and served as a core member of the team’s three-player rotation along its interior defensive line.
Butler was one of two restricted free agents New England had to deal with this year, and both will be back: while he was tendered at the second-round level, the team also decided to use the original-round tender on guard Jermaine Eluemunor. Furthermore, the Patriots also needs to decide whether or not to keep exclusive-rights free agent Keionta Davis in the fold. If they do not tender him ahead of Wednesday’s deadline, he will enter unrestricted free agency.