Things can happen fast. Look at the Josh Norman situation last year.
The Chicago Bears didn’t exactly make a splash in free agency. They added a lot of nice pieces, but not one of the big ones. Pace hinted that trades could still be made this offseason, but another intriguing situation could develop.
It appears that the Patriots star cornerback is unhappy with his current contract situation and may want out of New England.
This isn’t surprising considering that the Patriots signed free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore for five years, $65 million dollars. That move put Butler’s future with the Patriots in doubt. The Patriots did place a first-round restricted free agent tender on Butler, but that didn’t seem to matter in trade negotiations with the New Orleans Saints in the Brandin Cooks deal.
It’s unlikely that a team is going to part ways with a first-round draft pick in exchange for Butler. However, both the Patriots and Butler still have options. Butler can choose to sign the tender, which would pay him a salary of $3.91 million dollars next season. Butler has not signed the deal and the Patriots cannot trade him until he does so. Butler does have some leverage because he has to approve any trade the Patriots make.
The collective bargaining agreement says that Butler has until April 21 to sign a deal with another team. After that, the Patriots would have five days to match the deal. If the Patriots did not match the deal then they would receive that team’s first-round pick.
If Butler doesn’t get any offers then things get really interesting.
He would then have until June 15 to sign his Restricted Free-Agent tender. The Patriots would also have the option of taking away some of his salary, 110 percent of last year’s salary, which would leave him making just $660,000 next season. That right there tells us that Butler will most likely sign before June 15th.
Butler could also skip offseason workouts and spring practices to show his displeasure, but the latest reports have made that pretty clear. The Patriots could pull his RFA tender at any time. That would make Butler an unrestricted free agent. If this happens, the Chicago Bears need to be all over it.
The Bears shouldn’t give up their first round pick for Butler. Yes, he is a two-time Super Bowl champion, and is easily one of the best cover corners in the game, but he is going to 27.
The Bears need their first round pick to build their team from within the draft. However, if Butler hits the open market Virgina McCaskey needs to open her checkbook. The Bears should be monitoring this situation very closely. Last year’s rumors about the team being in the Josh Norman sweepstakes tells me they are keeping their tabs on this situation.
After a very rocky start to free agency, the Bears have actually made some very under the radar moves, but they still could use some help in the secondary. Imagine, Butler on one side and Prince Amukamara on the other. That’s a pretty solid duo, especially for a team that has to play in the same division with Aaron Rodgers, who actually has more than one weapon now, and Mathew Stafford. Again, Butler will be 27, but he may be worth the money.
In 2016, Butler played in all 16 games for the Patriots and recorded 63 tackles, one sack, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble. Pretty impressive if you ask me. Pro Football Focus also has him as the No. 7 cornerback out of 112 qualifying players.
The best corner last season for the Bears last season was Tracey Porter and not because of productivity. Porter led the Bears secondary in snaps with 944. Adrian Amos was the overall highest player rated in the secondary, but at safety, not corner. The Bears are going to have another young roster in 2017 with a lot of inexperience. Malcolm Butler can help build a solid foundation for years to come with his experience in a such a successful organization.
The most realistic scenario for Butler to end up in the Chicago is if the Patriots chose to release him. Bill Belichick has done it before, hopefully, he does it again.
Ryan Pace has a history of making deals with the Patriots. With that being said, a first round pick is a steep price to pay for a 27-year-old corner.
Let’s all hope the Patriots let Butler walk.