Free Agent Cornerback Malcolm Butler is expected to sign with the Tennessee Titans upon the opening of free agency on Wednesday.
The news was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport later advised that the deal is for five years and over $61 million, with more than $30 million guaranteed.
Butler finished the 2017 season with 60 combined tackles, two interceptions and 12 passes defended. In 2016, he had four interceptions and was a first-team All-Pro on Pro Football Focus.
Despite his indelible place in New England Patriots history, his departure was not unexpected. Last offseason, the Patriots signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million deal. The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe had reported the Patriots told Butler (before the start of the 2016 season) that they did not plan on offering any cornerback $10 million-plus per year. However, they did exactly that with Gilmore shortly thereafter, Reportedly, it was a source of tension for Butler throughout the 2017 season.
That tension apparently reached it’s breaking point in the Patriots’ Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Butler didn’t play a single defensive snap in the 41-33 defeat.
After the game, Butler told ESPN’s Mike Reiss and Schefter that the Patriots “gave up” on him. It seemed to be such a disappointing end to a tenure that saw Butler become a Super Bowl hero. Butler intercepted Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line, delivering a victory for the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.
Meanwhile, the Titans are adding one of the best cornerbacks on this year’s free-agent market. Over the past two years, Butler continued to prove that his Super Bowl XLIX heroics were no fluke. Despite a decline in 2018, Butler remains one of the more consistent coverage cornerbacks in the league. He should be expected to make an immediate impact for the Titans’ secondary in 2018.
For Patriots Nation, it will be yet another of their Super Bowl heroes wearing a different uniform. It is true that the team is renowned for its ‘next man up’ philosophy. However, for a high profile position such as cornerback, it will be interesting to see just who that ‘next man up’ will be in the Patriots defensive backfield.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and a National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the AFC East. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC