Butler Was So Close, Yet So Far With the Patriots

Ian Logue
September 06, 2011 at 11:16pm ET

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When Darius Butler looks back on his time in New England, it's going to be interesting to see what frustrated him the most.

Whether it was the fact he was so close to earning a spot and couldn't hold on, or if it was just the fact he had yet another shot and still couldn't pull it off.

Darius Butler becomes the latest casualty in New England's secondary to be let go after he was waived by the team on Tuesday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Either way, it's a missed opportunity that ultimately cost him a spot with this football team, and it lead to Bill Belichick deciding to waive him Tuesday.

The opportunity was there. Butler and Devin McCourty found themselves with the opportunity to compete for a spot opposite Leigh Bodden before the start of the 2010 season, only to find that the opportunity was theirs for the taking after Bodden suffered a shoulder injury and wound up on injured reserve before the season even started.

It's exactly the opportunity that seemed to be ripe for the picking - giving the rookie out of Rutgers a shot to prove he could be the shutdown corner everyone had said that he was coming out of the draft, while Butler - who was in his second season - seemed poised to step up and grab the other spot.

That's exactly how it seemed like it was going to work out.  It seemed like after signing a long-term extension, Bodden's injury could have potentially opened up the chance for a younger guy to take his job.  It's a story that Patriots fans certainly aren't strangers to, and initially many wondered if this would be another storyline that would end in a similar fashion.

The only problem is, that's more or less what happened - just for the wrong player.

Butler struggled during his time on the field opposite McCourty, with the Cincinnati Bengals clearly spotting something during the preseason that gave them reason to believe they could take advantage of him.  According to ProFootball Focus, they went at him 12 times in the opener, completing 10 of those passes for 133 yards and a touchdown.

A week later against the Jets, they attacked him again to the point where he was actually flagged twice in the same drive for pass interference.  That game ended up spelling the end for Butler, giving Kyle Arrington the opportunity to secure the other side of the field to the point where he was given a contract extension before the start of this season.

That left Butler with one foot out the door heading into this season.  Looking back at the number of snaps he played during the exhibition season, as well as the fact that  - like Brandon Meriweather - he was still in the game last Thursday night in the fourth quarter against New York, Belichick apparently hadn't seen enough improvement in him to warrant keeping him around for another season.

So Tuesday afternoon the team waived him, and the Carolina Panthers immediately scooped him up.  And just like that he becomes another recent high draft pick that the team has moved on from.

Give Belichick credit.  We've seen guys that he tried too hard and too long to make work here in this system, and he obviously decided that with the transition defensively that they're undergoing this season, they can make it work with the guys they have.

They've got Bodden back.  McCourty - save for a tough outing against Detroit two weeks ago - appears poised for another good year.  Arrington played fairly well (again - save for a tough game against the Lions), so they've got some talented guys in the secondary.  Factor in newcomer Ras-I Dowling, who looked good in the finale against New York, and suddenly the Patriots find themselves with a pretty formidable group.

Unfortunately all that means to Butler is he just wasn't the right fit here with the Patriots.

According to his Twitter account Butler had one final dinner with McCourty, Bodden, Arrington, Dowling, Patrick Chung, and Sergio Brown Tuesday night before heading off to join his new team.  As we all know change is a constant in the NFL, and even though he was so close to being a starter here in New England, Butler's story just wasn't meant to be.

Hopefully for his sake he'll start a new chapter with the Panthers.