February 1, 2015 – Malcolm Butler burst onto the scene as the hero of Super Bowl 49 with his last second goal line interception of Russell Wilson. The undrafted rookie out of West Alabama turned into a household name over night. He assumed the starting role in 2015 and 2016 with his excellent play expected to fetch him a hefty payday from the normally frugal Bill Belichick. However, Butler was instead given a first round tender and the large contract earmarked for a star cornerback was instead given to divisional rival and the largely up-and-down Stephon Gilmore of the Buffalo Bills.
Despite this snub, Butler started the highest percentage of snaps on defense for the Patriots in 2017 before being benched minutes before the start of Super Bowl LII. A perplexing and as yet unexplained decision surely leaves Butler out in the dark and exiting Foxborough in the upcoming free agency period. Below we will look at some potential Malcolm Butler landing spots:
1. Detroit Lions
Newly anointed head coach Matt Patricia was Butler’s defensive coordinator (DC) for his entire four year playing career. No coach knows him better or will understand his strengths and weaknesses greater than Patricia. It is unclear whether the decision to bench Butler was Belichick’s (most likely) or Patricia’s, but Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn (who spent 16 years in New England prior to taking over in Detroit) could certainly talk Butler into joining an up and coming team that will likely have a similar system to the Patriots.
Darius Slay is an excellent corner, yet the Lions are currently lacking a quality compliment. Rookie Teez Tabor struggled but the pairing of Slay and Butler could challenge the Jaguars and Broncos as the leagues best duo. This one might be off the table if Butler blames Patricia alongside Belichick for “giving up” on him in Super Bowl LII.
Staying within the division
2. New York Jets
The New York Jets looked to sure up their secondary after the second departure of CB Darrelle Revis. The two young rookie safeties saw plenty of action with Jamal Adams having an excellent rookie campaign. The Jets threw a lot of money at the up-and-down Morris Claiborne which based on 2017 alone looks like a miss. Claiborne had an excellent 2016 with the Cowboys and the Jets will hope he can re-find that form alongside another quality starter.
Malcolm Butler would certainly add a new element to this Jets defense and could certainly benefit from the heat the talented interior could put on opposing QBs. The Jets have plenty of cap room to make a splash for Butler. They are likely to target a quarterback early and improving their secondary through free agency might be the most appealing option. If bad blood exists between Butler and the Patriots – which I imagine it must – why not stay in the division and take on the Patriots twice a year?
3. Miami Dolphins
Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain performed well in 2017 but the Dolphins could do with adding another talented press corner to match the system Matt Burke is trying to run. Butler is an accomplished CB and could serve as a mentor to the younger CBs on Miami’s roster. Sliding Butler in alongside Howard with Reshad Jones and TJ McDonald behind could turn the secondary from a question mark to a clear strength of the defense.
As it currenlty stands Miami is short of cap space but the team could easily free up the necessary cap space by cutting Lawrence Timmons, Koa Misi, Julius Thomas and other underperforming veterans. Similar to the Jets, the opportunity to compete against the Pats twice a year – and on an up-and-coming team could be appealing to Butler.
4. Cleveland Browns
The Browns have plenty of cap space and could do with adding a quality cover corner to an impressive young front seven. If it’s all about the money for Butler, you’d be hard pressed not to find a better offer than Cleveland.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have a potential No.1 CB with young Vernon Hargreaves but time is ticking on veteran Brent Grimes who continues to put together impressive seasons at 34 years old. The Bucs are a young and intriguing team who massively under performed last season. Their pass rush deficiencies could be improved with the addition of Butler who can play physical on the line of scrimmage, allowing McCoy and company longer to get after the QB.
6. Green Bay Packers
The Packers have been perennially undermanned at cornerback. New GM Brian Gutekunst has stated he’s not afraid to throw some money at the roster and Butler would be a welcome addition for a Defense that has struggled against the pass for the past few years. Aaron Rodgers and the offense look largely set but if Green Bay were able to add a quality player on defense like Butler, it might just put this team over the top and capitalize on Rodgers’ generational talent.
7. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have a lot of cap room, even after they likely sign Jimmy Garoppolo to a monster deal. Kyle Shanahan has his franchise quarterback to develop and GM John Lynch will need to add pieces around Jimmy G to help the 49ers challenge in the West. The front seven on defense is full of talented young playmakers and the addition of Butler in the back end could help Solomon Thomas, Deforest Bucker and Amik Armstead get after the QB. Reuben Foster looks like a steal after his performance as a rookie and adding a quality CB to make the 49ers immediate challengers to the upstart Rams and the seasoned Seahawks for NFC West supremacy.
8. Houston Texas
The Texans have the sixth most cap space and should rise Deshaun Watson’s rookie contract much the same way Seattle did with Russell Wilson. Houston will need to add reinforcement on offense and look to replace the departure of AJ Bouye from their defense. If Watt and Clowney can finally play a full season together, adding Butler into the mix could easily turn this unit into a Top-3 Defense. This might be the ideal fit for Butler joining a team with a lot of cap space, a likely challenger and also a team who could face the Patriots next season in the AFC Championship Game.
9. Indianapolis Colts
After releasing Vontae Davis, the Colts were forced to start two rookies on the outside with little else on the roster. McDaniels has certainly seen Butler up close and personal as he’s done battle against him for the past three season day-in, day-out at practice.
The Colts will have the third most cap room in 2018 and following a string of veteran signings of defense in 2017, GM Chris Ballard could continue his overhaul of the defense with a lock-down corner who’s proven he’s an effective no.1 CB the past three years. Would Butler want to stick it to Belichick and the Patriots by signing with the McDaniels-jilted Colts.
Malcolm Butler Landing Spots
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Potential Malcolm Butler Landing Spots.