Most Texans fans were not highly anticipating a Super Bowl between the Patriots and the Eagles, but once it was all said and done, there was a lot of news that could end up being a major benefit to Houston. Patriots starting cornerback Malcolm Butler was benched during the entire Super Bowl, with his only snaps coming on special teams.
The reasons for this benching have not yet been released but many are chalking it down to a violation of team policy or a bad week of practice. Regardless, a player that was on 97.5% of the Patriots defensive snaps didn’t play one single down of defense in the biggest game of the year.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 5, 2018
NFL analysts have been repeatedly bringing up the benching, asking why Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t bring in Malcolm Butler even once as Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles scorched them for 374 yards and 4 total touchdowns. Known for his tackling prowess, Butler making just a few important plays could’ve changed the entire course of the game that was only decided by eight points.
After his benching and the Super Bowl loss, Malcolm Butler did not mince his words when he said, ““They gave up on me. F—. It is what it is.” He continued his comments to ESPN’s Mike Reiss and said, “I don’t know what it was. I guess I wasn’t playing good or they didn’t feel comfortable. I don’t know. But I could have changed that game.”
The benching has led multiple sources to believe that Malcolm Butler will not be in a Patriots jersey next season, and will move on to another team when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in March. And one team that has considerable interest in him is Houston Texans.
This interest was reflected by Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who tweeted after the benching, “Wusup @mac_BZ (Malcolm Butler’s twitter handle) we got a place for you in Houston.” This recruitment by Hopkins is followed by another comment where he said, “The guy’s made more plays than just that one play in the Super Bowl… That’s just the one that sticks out to a lot people. He’s a very smart football player, very talented.”
Wusup @Mac_BZ we got a place for you in Houston
— Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) February 5, 2018
This praise was followed by Texans head coach Bill O’Brien who said, “Malcolm Butler is one of the best corners in our league. He’s physical, he’s got really good ball skills, he plays the ball well, instinctive player… and he’s very well-coached. He’s one of the better corners in our league.” A former Patriots assistant himself, O’Brien has lots of interest in Butler.
The Texans do have the sixth largest cap space in the league, with over $58 million, and desperately need to upgrade a cornerback unit that is currently one of the worst in football after letting A.J. Bouye go to the Jaguars in free agency. This financial flexibility and need for someone like Butler could very well lead to him being signed in free agency.
Although there is a lot hype surrounding Butler, I personally believe the Texans shouldn’t go after him. His 55 tackles were only one more than Texans starter Kareem Jackson, and keep in mind Jackson was one of the worst corners in football. Furthermore, Butler’s 79.2 Pro Football Focus Grade only ranks 51st among all cornerbacks.
While he does have that big-name appeal, and made one of the best plays of all-time against the Seahawks, he simply doesn’t bring enough to the Texans for the large price tag he’ll probably carry. Instead of paying large amounts of money for a minor upgrade with Butler, the Texans should pursue someone like Rashaan Melvin.
Another option in free agency besides Malcolm Butler could be Aqib Talib, who was far better than the Patriots corner this past season, with his 86.2 Pro Football Focus grade ranking 15th among corners. Players like Melvin and Talib would be pricey, but would at least be worth such a large contract, unlike Butler.
All of this is not to say that Butler shouldn’t even be considered, as he is still a solid corner who has only missed one game over the past three seasons. And if the Texans do sign Butler, he will still be a massive upgrade from Kevin Johnson and Kareem Jackson, helping rejuvenate a Texans secondary that is in desperate need of talent.