Last offseason, we introduced the Chung-Thompkins Scale in an attempt to predict the impact that five of the New England Patriots’ free agency additions would have on the 2021 team. What all of them had in common was their previous history with the organization: just like the namesakes of the scale — safety Patrick Chung and wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins — they had left the team but eventually returned.
A player who performs better in his second go-around with the Patriots will be placed closer to Chung’s end of the scale. A player not living up to previous levels of play will move closer to Thompkins.
Fast forward to this week, and the Patriots brought another familiar face back aboard who will try to find his way onto the Patrick Chung side of the scale. Cornerback Malcolm Butler, who spent the first four years of his career in New England, was re-signed on a reported two-year contract. While he does help address a current need, the question is what kind of impact the 32-year-old will have.
In order to find out, let’s put on our predictor hats and try to place him (for a more thorough explanation of the Chung-Thompkins Scale, please click here):
Malcolm Butler turning into another Patrick Chung will not happen. Chung was a former second-round draft pick who had a solid but unspectacular career in New England before becoming a cornerstone of three Super Bowl-winning teams: his one-year stint in Philadelphia was a watershed moment in his career.
Butler’s first stint with the Patriots makes it near-impossible that he will have a similar experience in his second time with the team. After all, he arrived in 2014 as an undrafted free agent and went on to develop into a Super Bowl hero and 55-game starter for New England.
When Butler left after the 2017 season, he was a two-time world champion, one-time Pro Bowler and a legitimate starting cornerback. And therein lies the problem as far as the Chung-Thompkins Scale is concerned.
Butler was already pretty good between 2014 and 2017. Him returning to those levels and thus ending up on the Hoyer Meridian — named after the Patriots’ longtime backup quarterback Brian Hoyer — would already be a success.
Whether or not he can do that at age 32 and after a one-year retirement for personal reasons can be questioned, however. That is especially true considering that New England is expected to make further investments at the cornerback position to fill the void created by J.C. Jackson’s free agency departure.
At the moment, Butler may project as a starter on the outside opposite Jalen Mills but any additional acquisitions might change his status. Him spending 2022 as an experienced depth option and rotational player would not be a bad thing per se, but it would be a change compared to how Butler was used during his first stint as a Patriot. Accordingly, it would not be a surprise to see him land to the right of the Hoyer Meridian.
The circumstances simply do not work in his favor as far as the Chung-Thompkins Scale is concerned, which says more about Butler’s impressive run between 2014 and 2017 than his outlook for the upcoming seasson.