Despite the desperate need to improve the secondary, the Buccaneers should steer clear of pending free agent Malcolm Butler.
What a difference a year makes, huh? If you told me a year ago that New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler should be ignored by the Buccaneers in free agency, I would have said you’re insane. Now? Now, it appears he should be crossed off any and every list except for the one titled “Do Not Sign.”
Butler had a rough year with the Pats, there’s no doubt about that. Something went awry behind the scenes that kept him in the dog house most of the season. However, during the Super Bowl I was still confident he should be a target the Bucs should pursue. That changed once the stories started to trickle out the following day;
Butler later released his statement, denying the allegations;
At this point, it’s unlikely we’ll ever get the 100% true story, but there is enough doubt in Butler’s character and willingness to follow simple rules to cast a shadow over any idea of signing him.
Think about it – when do the Patriots ever actively shop a player that they feel is able to contribute to getting them back to the Super Bowl and adding another Lombardi to their trophy case? Yet, that’s exactly what they were doing with Butler leading up to the 2017 season.
Butler was on the verge of being sent to New Orleans, to the point that the two had worked out a contract extension should the trade happen. When things didn’t pan out, Butler was forced to return to the Patriots, despite wanting to be in New Orleans.
Did that play into his poor 2017 performance? Possibly. Did he want out so badly because he didn’t like the strict rules in which Bill Belichick runs his team? Also possible. Again, we can do nothing but speculate on everything except that Butler and New England have seen their last days together.
Butler will be a little more affordable on the open market than he would have been last season and these reports won’t help him in negotiations – unless his agent can spin the fact that the Patriots lost a Super Bowl to a backup quarterback because his client wasn’t allowed to set foot on the field. But at the end of the day, would the reward be worth the risk? Not likely.
Again, the Patriots don’t let guys walk that can help them win championships. How many times have we talked about how crazy the Pats are for trading this player or cutting that player only to watch them be right?
For the money, the Buccaneers are better off pursuing Trumaine Johnson who will be highly coveted on the open market with a better individual resumé and at the same age as Butler. Will he cost a little more than Butler? Of course, but that likely would have happened this off-season regardless of the drama surrounding the Super Bowl.
If the Buccaneers are going to win fans back after the biggest letdown in recent memory – and justify yet another hike in ticket prices – they have to open the checkbook up yet again. Johnson should be one of if no the top target in free agency and Butler shouldn’t even get a second thought.
Maybe Butler will get his wish and end up with the Saints, and if the Pats were right the Buccaneers can take advantage twice a year for the duration of his deal.