Cornerback Malcolm Butler was one of 17 players who didn’t participate in Thursday’s voluntary organized team activity. While the reason for his absence is not known, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status. Butler has told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he’s unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.
Source: New England Patriots- ESPN
Malcolm Butler Contract Analysis
Mike Reiss reports today in his must-read Sunday notes column that Malcolm Butler’s absence from at least media access to Thursday’s OTAs could be related to that he’s looking for the Patriots to sweeten his contract.
Butler is one of the big four of free agents the Patriots will have to deal with next offseason, the others being Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Jabaal Sheard. Hightower seemed like the one that most of us thought would get done first since his high cap number could be reduced to open up more overall cap space.
Now Butler could change things, or perhaps accelerate the timeline a bit. It’s been a while since the Pats have had a contract hold out during the offseason, and it brings back some bad memories, often in the past this has not ended well.
There’s no question, Butler deserves a raise but as is always the case with the Patriots and money, there could be a disconnect between how much Butler thinks he should get and what the Patriots are willing to pay him.
Butler stepped right into the top cornerback spot last season and despite some hiccups, he always bounced back and had a Pro Bowl season. The Patriots deployed him on the quickest opposing receiver, including the likes of Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr.. Even when Butler gave up catches he was always right around the ball.
I feel comfortable calling Butler the most promising young Patriots cornerback since Ty Law. He has it all — can play press man, has a short memory and is physical in every aspect.
Butler will be a restricted free agent next offseason, so the Patriots were hoping they could get him for both 2016 and 2017 at a far lower rate than a team would have to pay their best corner.
Put it this way — last season Butler was making 1/32nd what Darrelle Revis made. That’s obscene value and Butler surely took note.
So now the Patriots money dance begins once again. We’ve seen both ends of the spectrum — in Deion Branch’s case in 2006 it ended with the player getting shipped out of town long before he should’ve been. Or in Richard Seymour’s case the Pats gave him a raise for the final year of his rookie deal after he held out, then worked out another deal the following offseason.
The Pats have been hesitant to give out top dollar long-term deals to cornerbacks in the past, but Butler is different as is the game now. You need man coverage corners to compete against good quarterbacks and Butler is the Pats best man coverage corner.
Hopefully they can avoid things unravelling like they did with Branch and find some common ground sooner than later. Is Butler willing to keep sitting out into training camp? Or was this a one-time message hoped to spur some early action?
The Pats have plenty of contract work to do on defense and while we thought Butler would get a new deal eventually, it might happen sooner than later now. But Hightower and Collins remain the first priorities and that could complicate things if Butler wants to play hard ball now.