The New England Patriots signed cornerback Malcolm Butler - the hero of Super Bowl XLIX - to a restricted free agent tender Tuesday worth $3.91 million, but the Patriots could decide to trade Butler and have been linked to Seahawks star Richard Sherman, who appears to be on his way out of Seattle.
Earlier in the offseason, the Patriots signed coveted free agent Stephon Gilmore to a massive five-year, $65 million deal.
On Wednesday's episode of "Undisputed", Cris Carter, Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless analyzed Butler's situation with the Patriots, and predicted what Bill Belichick will do with Butler heading into the 2017 season.
Bill Belichick has to make decisions that maximize Tom Brady's window
“Look, unlike my friend Shannon Sharpe across the table, I believe Tom Brady can play five more years. I believe, you could say, Tom has a five-year deal with the devil, you know, to beat Father Time. I don’t know how he does it, but he just keeps doing it. But I believe he can play five more Super Bowl-caliber years.
"But I must admit and face the reality that he is turning 40 on Aug. 3. So if I’m Bill Belichick, every move I make now is to win now, to maximize the window that is starting to close on Tom Brady and the dynastic New England Patriots.
"Now that I have Malcolm Butler on a steal of a deal, a bargain-basement $3.91 million deal for next year, I’m going to keep him. I’m going to max my chances. I’m going to say, ‘Hey, I don’t care how disgruntled you are, Malcolm. Why don’t you show me and show the league for the next year just how great you can be. Play for a contract.’”
Mark J. RebilasMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Pats should keep Butler unless they can get a high draft pick for him
“They could still franchise him if they wanted to, going forward, but that’s probably going to be Garoppolo depending on how all that shakes out.
"But I wouldn’t care if he played mad. I would have the best two corners in pro football, the best tandem with Stephon Gilmore, obviously, that they signed in free agency.
"The point is, this would maximize my chances of winning a sixth Super Bowl, and there’s only one way I would change my view - and that is the New Orleans Saints. If they came to me just before the draft and said, ‘We cave in, we break down, we give you our 11th overall pick.’ I’d do that for Malcolm Butler, but other than that, I don’t think that’s going to happen - and so I’m keeping Malcolm Butler.”
James LangJames Lang-USA TODAY Sports
This is a different situation than the one New England faced with Dont'a Hightower
“Well if you just look at their business model and how they’ve done things - they just signed Dont’a Hightower to an extension after letting him experience free agency. Now he was basically in the same situation. In the last year of his contract, they had a contract for the year, he had a good year, test free agency. You want to go out there and see what you’re worth?
"Now Malcolm Butler’s a little bit different because he’s restricted and we know that there’s someone interested in him. But Belichick has done a great job in hiring DBs for a year or two.
"Now Skip, you’re right. They are in a window that I believe they are going to try to take advantage of - and, to me, they’re having a hard time developing pass rushers based on the way they play their defense. Two-gap, control the line of scrimmage. They don’t get a lot of people that can rush the passers.”
Isaiah J. DowningIsaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Butler gives the Patriots flexibility they might not have with a replacement
"So I believe what Belichick is trying to do is gear up and play a lot of coverage where he can blitz his linebackers - because Hightower is better off blitzing, as we saw in the Super Bowl, than he is in pass coverage.
"That’s the kind of scheme that Belichick, I believe, is going to come up with where he can put more pressure on the quarterback through blitzing. Can play more man-to-man and combination coverage on the outside, which you know he loves to do. And getting a guy on the cheap? Shoot, that’s what he does. You’re talking about somebody who has a specialty? That’s what he does.
"And they don’t owe Malcolm Butler anything, because they have given him a great opportunity. He was the Super Bowl hero, he has taken advantage of it, and I don’t believe he’s going to be able to maximize his overall earning power in New England. He’s going to have to go there, play another year, then ultimately he’s going to have to leave and get paid big money somewhere else.
"He is an underrated football player, and allows them to do a lot of things defensively that they wouldn’t be able to do - especially in the secondary - without him.”
Michael MadridMichael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports
Malcom Butler just saw Stephon Gilmore sign a massive contract
“Coach Belichick bet that Dont’a Hightower was not going to be viewed like Luke Kuechly [in Carolina] and Bobby Wagner in Seattle, because they use him differently. You don’t see Kuechly walk to the edge, you don’t see Wagner walk to the edge and blitz. But [the Patriots] do use Zeus Hightower in that capacity.
"So Belichick bet that he has more value to us than anywhere else on the market. That’s why they felt very comfortable letting him shop himself around. And then he came back.
"See, Malcolm Butler is very unique. He just saw Stephon Gilmoreget $65 million, $40 guaranteed. Malcolm Butler says ‘I’m better than him. I’ve been to the Super Bowl. Y’all just paid him for what he did in Buffalo, which wasn’t much, because they haven’t gone to the playoffs. I been on two Super Bowls. I’ve been an integral part.”
Bob DonnanBob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Butler is going to have to leave New England if he wants to get paid
“The way the Patriots do business [is] ‘we’d love to have you, but you’ve got to play at our price.’
"Tom Brady has said ‘OK, I’ll take less money.’ Once you get him - because he’s really the only guy that’s been there as a player for all five of the wins, all seven of the seven appearances. If Tom Brady will take less money, how the hell can Malcolm Butler, how can Zeus Hightower think they’re going to get max dollars when this guy doesn’t get it?”