Two years ago, Malcolm Butler became a household name by saving the game for the New England Patriots on one of the most remarkable plays in Super Bowl history. He has since emerged as one of the better defensive backs in football, but things did not go all that well for him in 2017.
And he knows it.
In a chat with Albert Breer of The MMQB earlier this week, Butler admitted that his work on the field this season has not been his best.
“Anything that happened to me is my fault,” he said. “It has nothing to do with anything else, it’s possible to just have a s—-y season. It is what it is. I’m just worried about the Eagles.”
Some have wondered if motivation became an issue for Butler after the Patriots signed Stephon Gilmore to a $65 million contract and decided not to trade the Super Bowl XLIX hero. Butler played horribly early on, and he was benched for a short time in Week 2. He played better down the stretch, but he wasn’t anywhere near as dominant as he was in 2016.
“I have high standards, I didn’t meet my goals. I just feel that way,” Butler added. “There were ups and downs, a lack of consistency. But this isn’t about me; this is about the team. That’s how it is. It’s a production business. I just want to win this game. That’s what’s most important.”
Butler is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. His down season in 2017 may have cost him a few bucks, but he has a chance to send his market value through the roof again if he shines on the biggest stage. As far as his contract situation goes, Butler has said all the right things in recent days.
Malcolm Butler was hoping for a long-term contract extension last offseason, and it seemed like a virtual certainty that 2017 would be his last season with the Patriots when he was forced to play under the restricted free agent tender and New England signed Stephon Gilmore to a massive contract. Has anything changed in the past nine months or so?
Butler is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next month, and he was reminded by reporters on Wednesday that the Super Bowl could be his last game with the Patriots. The star cornerback said he “without a doubt” wants to return to New England next season, according to Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal.
But when pressed further about his future, Butler insisted he is only thinking about Sunday.
“No, I’m not looking at it like, I’m just looking at it like I’ve got a great opportunity to play in another Super Bowl,” he said. “And I just want to get this win and just enjoy it with my teammates and whatever happens, happens. Whatever is going to happen in your life is going to happen. You don’t know what’s going to happen, so you can’t even stress yourself about it. I’m just living in the moment, man. A great moment.”
Butler has had a down season, and that may actually give him a better chance to re-sign with the Patriots. New England has already committed $13 million per year to Stephon Gilmore and rarely shells out a ton of money for defensive backs, but the price to sign Butler long-term may have come down with the way he played in 2017.
That being said, it wasn’t long ago that Butler seemingly took a shot at his coaches on social media. There were also reports over the summer that he was “badly” hoping to be traded to the Saints, so you have to wonder if a divorce is inevitable.
Did Malcolm Butler take a shot at the New England Patriots over their defensive gameplan against the Miami Dolphins on Monday night? Some seem to think so.
Butler’s Twitter account retweeted a stat graphic from Pro Football Focus after Monday night’s game, according to CSN Boston. The infographic talked about how Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler picked apart the Patriots when blitzed:
PFF had the Patriots blitzing Cutler 20 times. The QB had arguably his best game of the season, going 25 of 38 for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Butler was left in single coverage a lot and did not stand up well against Jakeem Grant, who caught a touchdown pass over him in the end zone.
Maybe there’s something to Butler’s Twitter activity, maybe there’s not. He undid his retweet, so you won’t come across that graphic on his timeline, but it seems telling that he chose to highlight that stat. Maybe if he wasn’t taking a shot at his team, he was trying to suggest blitzing Cutler so much is a bad move. Or maybe it was just Miami’s night on Monday. Whatever the case, Butler may have some words for his coaches this week. Meanwhile, the Dolphins think they have a blueprint on beating the Pats.
Through the first six weeks of the NFL season, several popular names still lead the fray when it comes to defensive production. However, key injuries to superstars like J.J. Watt have created a void that has been filled by some surprising players, many of whom are having career years.
Here’s a look at each NFL team’s best defensive player so far in 2017.
Arizona Cardinals — Tyvon Branch, S
There are a lot of talented defenders on Arizona’s roster, but through six weeks, it’s hard to argue that Tyvon Branch — who has been called a “wolverine” complement to the “honey badger” — isn’t the very best. He not only leads the team and is tied for the league lead with 55 tackles, but he’s also defended four passes, forced a fumble and was named to the Pro Football Focus First Quarter All-Pro Team. Branch getting the nod says a lot about his impact this season when you consider Arizona also has Chandler Jones and his six sacks.
Atlanta Falcons — Deion Jones, LB
Deion Jones has filled out the box score this year, leading the Falcons with 38 tackles. He’s also recorded a sack, three passes defended and an interception. Jones is also among Pro Football Focus’ top 15 graded linebackers this season, alongside teammate De’Vondre Campbell, who has also landed very high grades for Atlanta. Jones is blossoming well for Atlanta in his second NFL season.
The New England Patriots only narrowly escaped with a home win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, and the Patriot defense certainly came away impressed with what Houston had to offer.
New England cornerback Malcolm Butler had particularly high praise for rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson — and he went as far as to compare the young quarterback to a former league MVP.
Watson has already impressed a number of his peers with his play during the early stages of his career. Considering how good the Patriots have been historically, if you’re making them sit up and take notice, you’re probably doing something right.
With the NFL Draft having come and gone, Malcolm Butler is all but certain to be stuck in New England for at least another season. While it doesn’t appear the star cornerback has any plans to hold out, it’s clear things have not gone to plan for him in the past month or so.
Butler reported to the Patriots’ offseason program this week, but Mike Giardi of CSNNE.com reports that the 27-year-old “badly” wanted to be traded.
“He wanted to be traded,” Giardi said Thursday. “He knew what the money was in New Orleans. So when we talk about him, ‘Oh he’s happy. It’s nice that he’s joined his teammates again.’ He had no other choice.
“He wanted New Orleans. He wanted them badly. They couldn’t work out a deal. So what’s he supposed to do now? Sit at home? No, you suck it up. You have to turn yourself back into a Patriot at least for a year, and hope. Who knows, maybe you do your work and maybe they say, ‘Hey, Malcolm, you know what, we can’t give you (Stephon) Gilmore money. But maybe we can find something. Maybe we’ve got $10 or $11 million.”
The Patriots have never dedicated a ton of money to the cornerback position, which is why it was such a surprise that they gave Gilmore $13 million per year. The chances of them paying two No. 1 cornerbacks are extremely slim.
For now, Butler must play under the restricted free agent tender and earn $3.9 million in 2017. He could sulk and have a down year, but that would only hurt him when he hits free agency next March. The Saints could still be a possibility, especially when you see what some of the reasons were for the talks breaking off. It’s in Butler’s best interest to just be patient.
The NFL Draft has come and gone, and Malcolm Butler remains a member of the New England Patriots. That likely means the star cornerback is going to have to play out the 2017 season under his restricted free agent tender, and it does not appear he is going to make much of a fuss about that.
ESPN’s Field Yates reports that Butler showed up to the Patriots’ offseason program on Wednesday.
Butler had stayed away from voluntary workouts before the draft, which is when he was negotiating with other teams and the Patriots were reportedly talking trade with the New Orleans Saints. However, the Saints instead chose to keep their picks and use them to address their defensive needs.
The fact of the matter is Butler has had no leverage all along, which is almost always the case with restricted free agents. No team was willing to sign him to an offer sheet and risk having to give up a first-round pick, especially when the 27-year-old is all but certain to hit the free agent market next offseason.
Butler is now set to make $3.9 million with the Patriots in 2017, and he will likely play opposite newly-signed Stephon Gilmore. Even if he has been bothered by trade rumors this offseason, Butler will likely help make up one of the best secondaries in football this upcoming season.
The New Orleans Saints continue to downplay their chances of getting New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler.
General manager Mickey Loomis didn’t rule out bringing Butler in on Wednesday, but he also made it clear it’s not a top priority.
“We haven’t really had any discussion for quite some time,” Loomis said, via Nick Underwood of the New Orleans Advocate. “Look, he’s their player. So, we’ll see how that evolves.”
Ultimately, the Saints would have to give up a fair bit in draft picks if they’re serious about acquiring Butler. Reportedly, they’re leaning against doing it. One can hardly blame them when seeing the potential asking price, and with the draft looming, this ship looks like it’s sailed barring an unexpected eleventh hour change.
The New Orleans Saints are the one team that has been consistently linked to Malcolm Butler this offseason, but it sounds like they are losing interest in trying to trade for the Pro Bowl cornerback.
Peter King of The MMQB was told by a source that the Saints are “leaning toward keeping their first three picks” in the upcoming NFL Draft. New Orleans currently has the 11th, 32nd and 42nd overall selections, and the New England Patriots would likely want at least one of those in any deal involving Butler.
According to King’s source, the Saints believe there are plenty of players who will be available in the first three rounds (they also have the 76th overall pick) and are capable of making an immediate impact. The 2017 draft class is considered very deep at defensive back, so giving up a high pick for Butler and then having to sign him to a long-term extension may not make sense.
Butler, a restricted free agent, has already signed his tender with the Patriots. If he is not traded, he will be forced to play out the 2017 season under a $3.9 million contract. The 27-year-old can then hit the open market next offseason.
With New England having signed star cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a massive contract this offseason, it is essentially a guarantee that they are not keeping Butler long-term. Unless the Saints feel they desperately need Butler this season, they might be better off keeping their picks and trying to sign him in a year.
The Patriots may be operating as though they plan to trade Butler (more on that here), but the market for a potential rental player is always going to be limited.
The New England Patriots have continued to explore the possibility of trading Malcolm Butler now that he has signed his restricted free agent tender, but they ultimately may end up holding onto the star cornerback.
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Patriots will continue to talk with the Saints about a possible trade, but there’s a chance they simply won’t agree on a price.
La Canfora also notes that in the off chance the Patriots end up trading Jimmy Garoppolo and acquiring a bundle of high draft picks, they may alter their stance on Butler.
The Saints could have signed Butler to an offer sheet when he was a restricted free agent and given up the No. 11 pick as compensation, so you know they will be looking for a better deal than that. New England also chose to send its first-round pick — No. 32 overall — to New Orleans in exchange for star wide receiver Brandin Cooks. If the Patriots get that pick back now in a trade for Butler, it would seem like both sides went through an unnecessary step.
The way Bill Belichick has been preparing for the draft has led some to assume he is planning on trading Butler and/or Garoppolo. You can read more about that here.
Should the Patriots keep Butler, they would pair him alongside newly-signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore and have arguably the best defensive backfield in the league.