The New England Patriots have had an incredible offseason. They were able to completely rebuild their team, while also keeping key veterans. They are the favorites to win Super Bowl 52, but they also have a glaring question mark in their defensive secondary:
What the hell is going to happen with Malcolm Butler?
Butler has until April 21 to sign his $3.91 million restricted free agent tender. If Butler does not sign the tender, the Patriots will still hold the Pro Bowl corner's rights. In my opinion, if Butler does not sign the tender, it could be because the Patriots are working on an extension and want to do right by the player. While this is unlikely and may just be wishful thinking, there is still a chance Butler is back with the Patriots for at least one more season.
If Butler signs the tender, there are two possible scenarios that could play out; one, Butler is simply back in New England for the 2017 season and will be playing for the aforementioned money. The second scenario, which many are speculating is the likely outcome, would be for Butler to be traded under the tender, where he then signs an extension with his new team.
Once the Butler situation figures itself out, the Patriots will be able to move on and continue to build their team for the 2017 season. If Butler is no longer with the team, the Patriots need to fill a hole at corner. While the acquisition of Stephon Gilmore was nice, I like him better as a #2 or #1A corner, rather than the #1 option in the secondary. Furthermore, looking at the #2 cornerback position if Butler departs, no Patriots fan should feel comfortable with Eric Rowe or Cyrus Jones playing any amount of significant snaps.
So what are some options for the Patriots if Malcolm Butler is all but gone? Here are a few:
Richard Sherman: I will be the first to admit it, this is an unlikely scenario, in my opinion. To be fair, the rumors are not dead and if the Patriots trade Malcolm Butler, they will have the assets to pull this type of trade off. Reports indicate the Seahawks are going to be more willing to trade Sherman the closer we get to the draft. Sherman would be an upgrade over anything the Patriots have and would probably make the Patriots the most feared defense in the NFL. Sherman has two years left on his current deal at just over $10 million per, but the Patriots would likely give Sherman an extension to lower his cap hit if he were to be acquired.
Jason McCourty: This deal simply makes too much sense for the Patriots to actually do it. As Devin McCourty's twin brother, the two played together at Rutgers, a known Belichick stronghold. McCourty is fresh off of being released from the Tennessee Titans after failing to take a pay cut, where he was scheduled to make $7 million for the upcoming season. McCourty has battled injuries the past couple of seasons but, when healthy, he is definitely an above average player. Unlike Sherman, McCourty would cost the Patriots only money, which is huge. Devin and Jason have expressed an interest in playing together at the NFL level and the Patriots obviously have a ton of information on the player. I would keep a close eye on this situation.
Darrelle Revis: It seems as if this optioned died a quick death, doesn't it? A few weeks ago, rumors were running rampant that the Patriots and Darrelle Revis had mutual interest in a reunion. Revis was released by the New York Jets following an incident where Revis was engaged in a physical altercation. The charges were dropped and Revis is free to be a normal NFL free agent again. Revis was in poor shape last season but has apparently lost 15 pounds and still wants to play professional football. If the desire is still there, this could be a fantastic option for the Patriots, regardless of what happens with Butler.
The Draft: This year's draft features one of the deepest corner back classes we have seen in recent memory. There is first round talent that will be available as late as the third round. Given the fact that the Patriots do not own a pick in the first two rounds, the Patriots may be looking to draft a corner early in the third round. However, if the Patriots do indeed trade Malcolm Butler for at least presumably the #32 overall pick and do not flip that pick for Richard Sherman, drafting a corner high would be something that I would not put past Belichick.
My guess is the Patriots want this situation over with by the time the draft rolls around next Wednesday. If that is the case, everyone should buckle up their seat belts for a crazy 10 days.