New England Patriots: So this is how it ends for Malcolm Butler

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14: Malcolm Butler
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14: Malcolm Butler /

The Super Bowl LII benching of Malcolm Butler all but guaranteed that he has played his last game in a New England Patriots uniform.

Super Bowl LII was tough, especially coming from a New England Patriots fan point of view. I wasn’t really a fan in 07′ and 11′ so I have never experienced losing a Super Bowl first hand.

Gosh, this stinks.

In life you have to put things behind you, it’s a part of learning and moving on.

Speaking of moving on, I can guarantee Super Bowl LII was Malcolm Butler’s last game with the Patriots. In the big game, Butler played 0 snaps on defense.  In other words, he was benched in what Patriots coach Bill Belichick cited as a “coaching decision.”

There is no doubt that Belichick is a better football coach than any of us, but in some situations he overcoaches. I just don’t see the rationale behind benching your top defensive back, in the biggest game of the year!

Butler compiled a great 2017 season, yes, early on he got beat and let up big plays deep, but his shutdown second half of the year well made up for it. The pairing of Butler and Stephon Gilmore lead one of the league’s best shutdown duos, and they seemed to both have skills that the other did not possess.

Malcolm Butler is short and quick with great man and press skills, while Gilmore is a tall and lanky cornerback who has great ball-hawking and zone skills. That 1-2 combination is a lethal pairing that can shut down any opposing teams best receivers.

The pairing was also the cornerstone of a defense that struggled early, but fought and clawed back into respectability. Butler played almost every down on defense for the New England Patriots in the regular season and postseason, he played something like 97 percent of the team’s downs on defense, which was one of the highest among the team’s defenders.

Butler not playing in Super Bowl LII has caused a lot of fallout and we have seen rumors swirl around why Butler received the benching. Some of which suggest Butler was found with narcotics, missed curfew, or that he missed the team flight to Minneapolis.

None of this can be confirmed as true by any source, but Butler did have his own response to it that he  put out on his Instagram:

Butler’s response to media criticism and speculation is a perfect response to the noise. In my opinion, the Super Bowl XLIX hero humbles himself with the post. He doesn’t show and anger, and he accepts his mistakes by telling fans that he puts it all on the line every time he steps on the field.

We’ve heard this story before

As a fan, that’s something I want to hear. Do I think it has any actual repercussion on his status with the team? Not at all. Butler has been a great player for the Patriots, but whenever a  personality with high skills comes around in the Bill Belichick system, things always end with the door being slammed.

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Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones are prime examples of skilled players who wanted a MASSIVE payday, and Bill simply said no.

Collins was dealt in the midseason last year to Cleveland for a third-round pick with his contract set to expire at the end of the season. Belichick has a history of letting people who want to get paid walk. I firmly believe that is how Malcolm Butler’s story will end with the New England Patriots.

Now, with Malcolm Butler hypothetically moving on, how will the New England Patriot fill the gap?

A replacement plan

One possibility will be through the draft. If I were an NFL GM in need of a defensive back, my selection would be Louisville defensive back, Jaire Alexander.  But, this upcoming draft is especially deep at cornerback where guys like Denzel Ward, Josh Jackson, Mike Hughes, and Minkah Fitzpatrick have skillsets made for the NFL.

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Another option outside the draft would be to groom the injured Cyrus Jones into a full-time nickel corner and slide Eric Rowe over to the right side and teach him a press-man technique in the number two slot. This is the in-house option for the Patriots, and one of the more likely scenarios.

Free agency, of course, is always an option.

Last season the Patriots made a big splash, signing Stephon Gilmore to a 5-year, $65 million dollar contract. In his first year, Gilmore has looked to be a cornerstone of the Patriots defense for years to come.

This year’s free agent class includes players like Marcus Joyner, Trumaine Johnson and Brent Grimes, but the Patriots are unlikely to stretch their cap boundaries. Most of these players have played in zone oriented schemes that have benefitted their coverage skills.

Needless to say, the Patriots are nearing a transition stage, and one of the moving pieces will be cornerback Malcolm Butler.

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It sets the stage for what is definitely going to be an interesting offseason for the New England Patriots.