Patriots Talk: Understanding The Malcolm Butler Situation
by Stephen Hilton
Free Agency has officially begun and it was fast, sudden and loud! As of yesterday, It has been stated by multiple sources that negotiations have broken down with New England Patriots‘ star [Cornerback] Malcolm Butler to be resigned to a long-term deal and it has been hinted that he might be replaced by [Cornerback] Stephon Gilmore who was picked up yesterday from the Buffalo Bills as a free agent. He will be paid for five years worth sixty-five million, forty million guaranteed. That is a shockingly huge contract for a player that the Patriots just got that isn’t one of their own players. Even stats can’t be argued that Butler is a significantly better player than Gilmore is.
What could force the Patriots to sign such a massive contract in the first place? According to the rumors, it was first reported by ESPN’s Dianna Russini that there were discussions about a potential trade in the works. The rumors state that Malcolm Butler is on the trading block and is being part of an exchange with the New Orleans Saints for [Wide Receiver] Bradin Cooks.
From where everything currently stands, one simply wonders what is going on with Bill Belichick. He is already losing both starting cornerbacks for the 2017 season, as Logan RyanLogan Ryan is now signed by the Tennessee Titans for 3 years, for thirty million total. Is losing Butler really worth the risk it will do for the secondary next season? We will not know since this is the first- I’m kidding. This has happened a number of times. People were upset with the deals Belichick has done, such as Lawyer Milloy or Vince Wilfork to name just a few names. They lost cornerbacks such as Ty Law in 2005 and they still managed to go to the Super Bowl that season. Same with Asante Samuel in 2007 after Super Bowl XLII. No matter how bad this situation may seem, Belichick has always found a way to get around his short comings.
However, what would start this whole story in the first place? There have been several reports by sources such as Mike Lombardi who wrote a piece for the Ringer yesterday titled Why NFL Teams Shelled Out Millions for the Biggest Free Agents. When it came to the Patriots’ signing of Stephon Gilmore, Lombardi stated:
The Patriots kept trying to sign Malcolm Butler to a long-term extension and kept coming up empty — the underpaid hero of Super Bowl XLIX is looking for the moon and then some. Who could blame him?
Butler asking ‘for the moon’ is a tend bit much considering that SuperBowl XLIX would have been very different if he didn’t make that he interception. In the 2 years since then, he has had much success, selected to a Pro-Bowl and Second-Team All Pro in addition to winning Super Bowl LI this year. Many would argue that Butler has earned his right for a big pay-day. However, Malcolm Butler’s agent, Derek Simpson, has denied these allegiances. He was speaking with ESPN’s Mike Reiss and stated:
“The Patriots haven’t approached Malcolm about his contract since last year, and anything that says he keeps asking for the moon is completely false,” Simpson told Reiss.
This is where things start to get very interesting. So who is really giving the more detailed picture here? Some believe that Derek Simpson is the center of the whole controversy. The simple reason is: Simpson has never worked for any NFL players with the exception of Malcolm Butler. The man has only negotiated with one NFL team: The New England Patriots. Guess how many contracts he has worked on? Two. The first was Butler’s rookie contract and his current contract (that is seemingly becoming more unlikely to be settled). So we have an agent who has never worked in getting an extension for an NFL player before and the fact that it’s been a year since the last time that he was called should be very telling of the situation.
However, there other sources that can confirm that the trade is possible as the Saints are also moving their wide receiving corps with the signing of Teddy Ginn Jr.
This is unexpected since the Saints’ current group of wide receivers are (according to spotrac.com):
- Brandin Cooks (unrestricted free agent in 2019)
- Michael Thomas (unrestricted free agent in 2020)
- Corey Fuller (unrestricted free agent in 2018)
- Willie Snead (restricted free agent in 2018)
- Brandon Coleman (restricted free agent in 2018)
- Tommylee Lewis (restricted free agent in 2019)
- Jake Lampman (exclusive rights free agent in 2018)
- Rashad Lawrence (exclusive rights free agent in 2018)
- Jordan Williams (exclusive rights free agent in 2019)
As of now, none of their current wide receiving receivers are being released until next season, so signing Teddy Ginn Jr. seems a little too early of a move unless the Brandin Cooks trade is officially underway. There is no certainty to this but it is very odd that a wide receiver is being brought onto a team when there is already plenty on the roster. If anything, the trade for Malcolm Butler will give the Saints’ help on their secondary as their defense last year was arguably the second worst defense in the NFL in 2016.
Now after saying all of this and discussing about Butler’s future, many have forgotten that Butler still has yet to sign his first round tender. As a restricted free agent, and one who is more than likely on the trading block, Butler has virtually no say in what his fate will ultimately be if he doesn’t sign the tender. He simply needs to sign that for a one year deal worth around 4 million and he will remain a Patriot till next season. Until then he cannot be traded. Unfortunately, Butler will not have any say in this as he will be left no choice unless he get a long term done and at the rate things are going, I doubt we will get time to find out until it’s already too late.