For the past week or so, the New England Patriots and Pro Bowl cornerback Malcolm Butler have been in a passive aggressive, nonverbal media war. The Patriots were thought to just be adding to their already talented roster when they dished out their largest defensive contract in franchise history when they signed Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a 5-year, $65 million with $40 million guaranteed, but the speculation has now surfaced that the Patriots are looking to move on from Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler.
Depending on where you get your information, it is being reported that the Patriots and Butler have not discussed a contract extension since last July/August. According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, the Patriots assured Butler that they were not going to offer any cornerback upwards of $10 million per season, which was evident when the Patriots reportedly offered Butler "$6-$7 million per season."
According to reports, Butler was extremely disappointed and frustrated with the situation, where he was apparently lied to, if you believe the reports. However, it seems as if Butler has calmed down and apparently has been saying he wants to be a "Patriot for life." Most Patriots fans, myself included, loved when we heard this. Unfortunately, the results that transpired this morning paints a much different picture.
According to Saints head coach Sean Payton, Malcolm Butler will be in New Orleans on Thursday to visit with the team. The Saints currently have the 11th and 32nd overall picks, and would need to give the 11th pick to the Patriots if they signed Butler to an offer sheet that New England did not match. However, if Butler signs his tender, the Patriots and Saints could work out a trade, which would almost certainly involve that 32nd pick.
Minutes ago, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that the New Orleans Saints and Malcolm Butler had already begun discussing a new contract, which they hoped to have completed by the end of the week. At that point, the Saints would start discussing a potential deal with the Patriots so they did not have to give up the 11th overall pick.
Again, the Patriots have all the leverage in this situation. If the Saints and Butler come to terms on a contract, there is a good chance it is below market value. If the deal is in the neighborhood of $10 million per season with half of the total money guaranteed, I would not put it past Belichick to match the offer and retain the player.
The other option for the Patriots would be to simply not entertain any type of trade offer the Saints present the Patriots. Simply put, if the Saints really want Butler, pay him more than the Patriots would be willing to give him and then forfeit the 11th overall pick. Sean Payton and Bill Belichick are very public about their good relationship, but at the end of the day this is a business, which I think both these men understand.
Finally, a very real issue that might face the Saints in a deal for Malcolm Butler would be their cap room. I am a staunch proponent in believing the cap is absolute crap, but the Saints currently have roughly $14 million in cap space, which does not account for the recent signing of former Arizona Cardinals OLB Alex Okafor to a 1-year, $3 million contract.
This situation will only get more confusing, so check back in to BBS for the latest rumors and reports.