As of April 18th, Malcolm Butler is still a Patriot. And now, Malcolm Butler has finally signed his first-round tender for $3.91 million. If you don’t understand what I just said, that’s okay, because it’s simpler than it looks.
Before you can read into the latest news on Butler, I can explain what this means for now:
1. Malcolm Butler’s contract for 2017 will be $3.91 million regardless of what team he plays for. Even if a team wants to extend his contract, that probably won’t happen for reasons I’ll explain in a minute.
2. In signing his first-round tender, this means the Patriots officially have control of Malcolm Butler (I mean this in a technical way) again, and own the right to trade Butler to any team the Patriots choose.
Since Butler signed the tender, he’s now forced to go wherever the Patriots tell him, whereas before he was allowed to look for any team, say the Saints, to sign him if they agreed to give up their first round pick. And also because Butler signed the tender, no team agreed to give up their first-round pick.
This presents more possibilities, but I’ll focus on two that are the most likely. Apologies for another list.
1. Malcolm Butler stays a Patriot for at least one more year at $3.91 million before he becomes a real unrestricted free agent in 2018, and he’ll get a huge contract in March.
All bias aside, this is safest route for Butler to make the most money in the long run. While he’s done everything to earn a payday, the strict contract rules made that nearly impossible for this year. The Patriots knew that and made the most of it by keeping Butler under control for one more season on the cheap while they look to win another Super Bowl.
So say the Patriots do win another Super Bowl. Malcolm can sell himself as the major part of three Super Bowl, with two of those as the top corner for the Patriots. For lowly teams like the Jaguars who are obsessed with that championship pedigree, it seems obvious that Butler will have a great time next year as a free agent. Well deserved.
2. Malcolm Butler signed the first-round tender, but now the Patriots trade him for a draft pick.
The Patriots’ recent moves suggest that they’re in it for another Super Bowl, but now the Patriots finally have the right to trade him if they so choose. The question here is whether one more year of Malcolm Butler for this Super Bowl contending team is worth more than a first round pick in this year’s draft. The Patriots recognize the importance of long-term value and try to keep as many draft picks as they need. To add on that, they also aren’t afraid to trade important players (Jamie Collins, Chandler Jones) even when they’re already contending for a Super Bowl.
Before I accidentally make your head spin, here’s one more qualifier: the Patriots recognize that not all positions are the same. Cornerback is one position where talent is much harder to find, predict, and then develop. And that’s why the best cornerbacks are often drafted early in the first round, which says how special of a case Malcolm Butler is as an undrafted player. Again since good corners aren’t easy to find, maybe Butler is worth hanging on to, while still in his late 20’s.
On the flipside, draft picks are so heavily coveted in the NFL because they offer so much benefit to teams if they draft a good player. Cheap money for three to four years and the “hometown discount advantage” when that player hits free agency. Where NFL contracts are steadily increasing, draft picks will be even more valuable in the future. So, to have a first-round pick guaranteed for Butler doesn’t seem like too much of a loss after all.
To summarize, Butler signing his tender now instead of waiting until June 15th reduces the possibilities of where Malcolm Butler ends up. As this goes into print, the Patriots could be working on a trade since the NFL Draft is coming up very soon. If nothing else happens though, the Patriots will go into next season with Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore as their top corners. I’m sure the quarterbacks on the upcoming schedule for the Patriots won’t be happy about that.