Tag Archives: Malcolm Butler

Daily Notebook: Tuesday Patriots News and Notes 3/28

Ian Logue
March 28, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Here’s a look at today’s top stories:

Brady Plans on Sticking Around For a While – People might still be wondering what type of time frame Tom Brady might have in mind in terms of how much longer he plans on playing football, and it sounds like anyone concerned about this era coming to a close any time soon might be able to rest a little easier.

Brady had already made it clear that he’s far from close to being done with the game and recently reiterated that to Robert Kraft, who said on Monday that the veteran quarterback plans on playing into his late 40s.

“As recently as 2-3 days ago, he assured me he’d be willing to play six to seven more years and at the level he performed,” Kraft said Monday at the NFL’s annual meeting via Mike Reiss of ESPN. “There’s no one that would be happier than I, and our fan base.”

The 39-year old turns 40 on August 3rd, starting both a new chapter in his life both on and off the field.  As he waves good-bye to his 30s, he’ll begin his journey down the road of what will most likely be the most scrutinized of his career.  Crossing the barrier into that age group has usually spelled the beginning of the end for even the best quarterbacks, with none of them playing anywhere close to the level of what Brady did at the age of 39.  Now the question will be whether or not one of the most consistent players in the game can carry his success into the next stage of his career.


Brady and Kraft obviously share a special relationship.

Everyone knows about his work ethic both in terms of how he approaches the game in his preparation and with how he takes care of himself.  Kraft mentioned on Monday that Brady has been doing that since the beginning, which certainly speaks volumes about his success.

“I think Tommy’s sustained excellence is just unbelievable,” said Kraft.  “It’s a lifestyle. He’s in training now, it’s not like he’s stopped.  I remember after our first Super Bowl in ’01 going down in the training room in the old Foxboro Stadium, three days after we won, he’s in there with the music blaring working out. He’s really dedicated.  The thing that’s amazing about him. To this day, he hasn’t changed as a human being in how he relates to people, but also how he works out. The only thing that’s probably changed is how he eats and his diet. I’m not sure avocado ice cream is right for me, but if I could look like him and perform half as well, I guess I’d do it.”

How he performs at 40 will likely be one topic we’ll probably hear quite a bit in the months ahead and expect the pool of sharks to continue grow. There have already been plenty of media both locally and nationally who spent all of last season circling him and waiting for him to fail, obviously looking to pounce while being the first to announce his demise.

We’ve probably already missed out on many of them.  If you could go back and dig out the stories written when the Patriots trailed by 25-points in the third quarter against the Falcons in Houston (or likely following the pick-six he threw in the first half), there were probably some nauseating ones.  Fortunately those never saw daylight and instead they were ultimately crumpled up and thrown into the bin after Brady erased the deficit and brought the team back for a historic victory.

But there are likely some who still have one on their laptops half-written, knowing that day has to come eventually.  Now it’s just up to Brady to decide whether they’ll ever be printed, or if he’ll instead walk away at the top of his game before his critics ever get the opportunity to write his obituary.


What does the future hold for Butler?

Kraft Hopes Butler is “with us” – The situation with Malcolm Butler continues to drag on, but Patriots owner Robert Kraft told reporters on Monday that it remains his hope that Butler is still in New England’s secondary in 2017.

“I know he has the ability to go out in the market and get someone to sign him, and then we either match it or get the first-round draft pick. “I’m rooting, I hope, he’s with us and signs his [tender] and plays for us,” Kraft said via the Boston Globe.  “I have a great affection for him. He was part of probably the greatest play in the history of our team, but there are a lot of people involved in that on both sides.”

When asked if the team intended to trade him, Kraft responded with a clear “No.”

The Saints remain the team who appear to be the team Butler might be destined to end up, although despite a cryptic post on Instagram, nothing has materialized just yet.  Multiple reports have indicated that the two sides having discussed possible parameters about a new contract, but the Globe reports that as of now, Butler hasn’t received an offer sheet.

Having already signed Stephon Gilmore to a contract this offseason, New England’s secondary will certainly have a different look to it next season.  Whether or not Butler might still be a part of it remains to be seen, with the April 21st deadline for restricted free agents to sign an offer sheet with another team now less than a month away.  After listening to Kraft, it sounds like the Patriots intend to continue to be patient while it plays itself out.


Could Revis Return to New England?

Kraft on Revis: “I would love it” – With Darrelle Revis still without a football team, there are some who believe that a reunion in New England would make plenty of sense and Kraft certainly sounds like he might be open to the possibility.

The New York Daily News reported that Kraft said he has no problem with a Revis reunion, and wouldn’t mind having him back.

“I would love it,” Kraft said via Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. “Speaking for myself, if he wanted to come back, he’s a great competitor, I’d welcome him if he wanted to come.”

Myers also asked Kraft if there had been any contact, to which Kraft replied, “Ask my boy,” referring to Belichick.

As Myers points out, the Jets still owe Revis $6 million in guaranteed money and New York would owe him the balance of whatever another team pays him.  That means that if the Patriots paid Revis the $1 million veteran minimum to return to Foxboro, the Jets would be on the hook for the remaining $5 million.

There’s no love lost between the two organizations and it would certainly be fun seeing the Jets paying the salary of one of their key players during another championship run.  For Revis, if he can’t earn another big pay day, the next logical step would be the opportunity to add another piece of jewelry to his collection.

Either way, for Kraft, it’s up to “his boy” and after winning another ring without him, Revis no longer has the leverage he might have believed he had if he thought the Patriots couldn’t win unless he was on their roster.  Instead, Revis is just another player with an uncertain future who could end up being a spectator again in January while watching his old team make yet another run.

Kraft Calls Move For Patriots Getting Cooks From Saints “Excellent” – Kraft saw how things played out in 2007 after the team acquired Randy Moss and he seems pretty happy about the former Saints receiver being a part of his football team.

Kraft said Monday that he’s been pleased with the personnel moves the team has made so far, and he’s excited about what Cooks will bring to their offense.

“Part of it is the makeup of our team and the opportunities that have come along,” Kraft said via the Boston Globe. “I think what [the football staff] has done has been excellent, including getting [Brandin Cooks] from New Orleans. Since I’ve owned the team the only player that could make an impact like that at wide receiver was Randy Moss. [Cooks] doesn’t have his height but he looks like he’s got his speed. So, I think that’s complementary to what we have on the team and I’m excited about that.”

As for the guy who will be coaching these players, Kraft said he’d like to keep Belichick around until “he’s in his 80s.”

Kraft Believes Giants Would Have Beaten them in Super Bowl XLI – According to Giants co-owner Steve Tisch, Kraft wouldn’t have liked his team’s chances against Tisch’s Giants had they ended up facing each other in Houston in February.

Tisch said that Kraft told him just that, which he took as a compliment.

“Bob Kraft after the Super Bowl told me, ‘You would have beat us,’ ” Tisch said via the New York Post at the NFL Annual Meeting on Monday. “That was a nice compliment.”

Given New York’s history in that game against the Patriots, Tisch admitted that he liked his team’s chances.

“When I heard that, I agreed with him,” said Tisch.

Gronk Anxious to Get Back – It’s been a while since fans have seen Rob Gronkowski out on the football field and it seems like he’s definitely motivated to get back out there.

The veteran tight end is continuing his rehabilitation coming off of a season-ending back injury last season, and although he’s had some fun moments this offseason, he’s looking forward to playing again.

SUBSCRIBE FOR UPDATES

Fresh Content Delivered by 6:30am Each Day:



Patriots Draft Profile: Colorado CB Chidobe Awuzie

Steve Balestrieri
March 27, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

Four Year Starter is Versatile with Good Size, Athleticism

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots lost Logan Ryan in free agency and the jury is still out on whether Malcolm Butler returns at least for the 2017 season. With the signing of Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots can still use another corner, especially if Butler is indeed traded. That would leave them with Gilmore and Eric Rowe outside with Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones and Justin Coleman battling it out for the third corner position.

The draft is deep as usual in good talented cornerbacks, with many talented players being available in the middle rounds. And with no current picks in the first or second round, the Patriots will be selecting starting in Round 3. So, we’ll base our player profiles (for now), on players we think will be around then.

Some of the key qualities that the Patriots like to see in their cornerbacks are as follows:
Physicality
Versatility
Ability to Play Press Corner and Jam at the line
Must be Willing in Run Support
Sure Tackler (Logan Ryan)
ST’s Contributor

Chidobe Awuzie from Colorado is a cornerback with excellent size and strength that can play both press man and zone. He’s versatile and has covered outside as well as inside in the slot. Was Second Team All-Pac 12 in 2015 and 2016.

Made 65 tackles, with 12 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and an interception in 2106 for the Buffaloes. He’s got the size, 6-0, 202-pounds to line up outside and matchup with the bigger wide receivers.

He’s got good footwork for a bigger corner and is smooth at turning and running with wide receivers. He has a good jam at the line of scrimmage and has played confidently and well when put on an island against a top opposing WR. His top end speed isn’t fantastic but he should be able to run and mirror well.

Awuzie is good in run support although at times he wasn’t as aggressive as he should have been. Colorado used him as a blitzer his final two years and he was productive, notching seven sacks coming off the edge.

Pros:

– Instinctive and athletic

– Versatile, he can play outside or in the slot

– Excellent change of direction, 3-Cone Time (6.81)

– Good ball skills, gets his head turned around

Cons

– Top end speed is a question

– Needs to keep improving at defending the run and tackling

– A bit grabby when running downfield with WRs, could result in flags

What his Role Will Be:
Awuzie would immediately compete for reps. Initially, that may be inside in the slot where he has played in the past. He has the size and athleticism to match up anywhere.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with improved play in run support and tackling, he could vie for starter’s reps on the right side opposite Gilmore.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Four

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Logan Ryan who departed via free agency, and Awuzie will battle the Jones’ and Coleman for the third CB slot

What is his ST Value?
Good, he played some in Colorado and you can expect to see him on the coverage units as a gunner for the Patriots.

Conclusion:
Awuzie was essentially a starter since the end of his freshman year. He’s got lock-down corner qualities and is athletic, versatile, and aggressive. He’s very alert and instinctive on the field with good ball skills when the throw is on the way.

For a bigger corner, he can change direction quickly and will mirror even the smaller, shiftier slot wide receivers down the field. His top end speed was thought to be a question but ran well (4.43) at the Combine.

Awuzie is a smart, physical player that rarely makes mistakes or is out of position. His tackling can be an issue as he tends to go too high, where in the NFL the bigger receivers or tight ends can break those for yards after the catch.

He’s a guy that would fit in well with New England if they decide to pursue him. He’s got very good size, is aggressive and versatile, a facet of his game that plays well with Bill Belichick. He can play outside or in the slot. That quality as the potential third corner allows Matt Patricia to use him as a matchup player either inside or out. He’s a dangerous and effective blitzer off the edge and can play gunner on Special Teams.

Awuzie is a player that may be around in Round 3 when the Patriots get to make their first selection. If he’s still there, then he’d be a good fit for New England and will immediately compete for starting reps as the third corner.

Awuzie’s highlight film can be view here:

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 3-26 AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 26, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 3-26, & AFC East Notes.

Although I’m glad that the FBI and the Houston Police were successful in reacquiring Tom Brady’s jerseys and got them returned to Foxboro as well as catch the culprit, doesn’t it seem a bit over the top with the resources used to find it? I wasn’t aware the one from the Seattle Super Bowl was missing as well. One must wonder if the culprit will get credentials this upcoming season.

Building Depth Still Easily Done Before the Draft:
The Patriots have made a lot of moves during free agency, signing some free agents, bringing back a few of their own and adding other players via trade. But with almost $27 million in cap space, there’s no reason that the team cannot continue to build depth and add some impact players in free agency.

Just because things slowed down on the free agency front, don’t think that Bill Belichick and company are done. There are still plenty of good players available and some of those may still end in Foxboro. With the cap space available, they have the option of adding free agents that are still out there and spending to the limit or rolling over whatever cash they have left after the draft and adding UDFAs to the 2018 season.

That may not be that far-fetched. If they keep Jimmy Garoppolo, then the cost of franchising him will not be cheap. It will be interesting to watch how much they roll over into next season.

Revis Rumors Persist:
The rumors that the Patriots are going to sign CB Darrelle Revis “at any time” refuse to die. So perhaps there is some truth to those rumors, however, I don’t see that happening. As we spelled out here about a week or so ago, the Patriots wouldn’t be served well by bringing Revis back.

His level of play has slipped badly, he’s no longer a top corner, the Patriots are better served by sticking with Stephon Gilmore, and further developing young players in Eric Rowe, Jonathan and Cyrus Jones and deciding on whether they hold onto Malcolm Butler.

We’ve heard the rumors as well about Revis moving to safety. First of all, it was Bill Belichick that said that his skill set didn’t lend itself to moving there. But even if they did, who do you sit? Devin McCourty? Duron Harmon, who the team just re-signed? He’s not going to be a strong safety so Pat Chung is out too. Time for this rumor to go.

DC Bound in April:
The White House announced that the Patriots will visit on April 19th. The tradition is for the champions to be welcomed and honored by the President.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made the announcement on Thursday and now the only question remains as to how many members of the team will opt to show up to meet President Trump or decide to sit it out.

Six players from the 2016 Super Bowl team, (Alan Branch, Chris Long, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, LeGarrette Blount, and Martellus Bennett) have all stated that due to either political or personal reasons they will not attend.

Return of Pat the Patriot:
Some interesting news this week was that a proposed rule change that will be voted on at the League Meeting in Phoenix this week will be that teams be allowed to wear an alternate helmet in a color to match their third uniform.

That would allow the Patriots to wear the “Pat the Patriot” uniforms and helmets again, which were banned in 2013 in the name of player safety as alternate helmets required a break-in period.

For my money, the white jerseys with the red pants and the Pat the Patriot helmets were the best uniform that New England has ever worn. Nothing else comes close. Not that it would ever happen, but I’d love to see them go back to that setup full time.

A Look Back in Time:
It was 46 years ago, this week, on March 25, 1971, the Boston Patriots changed their name to the “New England Patriots” although at the time, it wasn’t a big deal, it has gotten more important as time goes along.

The Sullivan family who owned the team at the time wanted to change the name from Boston to New England in part because the city of Boston balked at building the franchise a new stadium. Sullivan had just finished building his new facility down in Foxboro on Route 1.

Originally Sullivan wanted the name, Bay State Patriots (yuck) but Commissioner Pete Rozzelle stepped in thankfully and suggested that the new name be reflective of and inclusive of the entire region and the New England Patriots were born. And as Paul Harvey used to like to say, “now you know the rest of the story.”

Amendola Contract Re-Do Still In the Works:
There was an intriguing post on ESPN by Pats beat writer Mike Reiss on Saturday morning about the importance of Danny Amendola. While many in NE are writing Amendola off with the addition of Brandin Cooks. Reiss made the very astute observation that this may be premature.

Amendola doesn’t possess gaudy numbers, but like we’ve said here more than once, the NFL isn’t a fantasy football league. In big games when the chips are on the line, Amendola has proven himself, time and again, to be clutch. More importantly, he has Tom Brady’s trust factor, something that can’t be overlooked.

In the past two Super Bowls played by the Patriots, Amendola has caught 13 passes for 126 yards, two touchdowns, and an all-important two-point conversion. In the playoffs for New England, he’s returned nine kickoffs for a 23.7-yard average and four punts with a 13.5-yard average.

Amendola’s current cap hit with a salary of $6 million will not fly this year, especially with him being a 4-5th option in the passing game. But if he’s amenable to another reduction, and all indications are that he is, he’ll be welcomed back.

Malcolm Butler Sets Social Media Afire with Cryptic Message:
There is nothing new on the Malcolm Butler front, we do know he met with the Saints and afterward, NO coach Sean Payton raved about Butler to the press. Then Butler posted a picture on Instagram of himself sitting on a plane with the quote, “Nothing’s changed but the change” which was a line from a rap song.

It immediately set off social media on a conspiracy theory burn that lasted the rest of the day. Anyone can interpret that to mean any number of scenarios. As many as there are possible outcomes in his contract stalemate. People are still reporting he may be dealt as early as this week, and although that may be true, Butler isn’t going anywhere until he signs his free agent tender.

The Saints and Patriots can’t even discuss a possible trade for him until he does sign it. New Orleans isn’t going to sign him to an offer sheet because, at that point, they run the risk of either losing Butler back to New England if they match. But more importantly, they risk losing their top draft pick #11 to the Patriots if they decline to match.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Picked as NE’s Top AFC East Competitor:
The Buffalo Bills and not the Miami Dolphins are the Patriots biggest competitor in the AFC East according to Adam Schein. Schein wrote this week:

“And I still wanna see Ryan Tannehill take the next step. But I love that Buffalo retained Tyrod Taylor. He’s a good quarterback who will get even better now.”

While I’ve always enjoyed Schein’s takes, I respectfully disagree with this one. Taylor has done little with the passing game. Buffalo averaged 189.7 yards per game thru the air. They were 32nd in attempts and 30th in yards. I’ve yet to see Taylor put the team on his back and carry them to a win. The Bills only success in throwing the ball has been when they’ve run it very effectively.

I do agree with Schein that Sean McDermott will change the culture quickly up in Buffalo. And it should prove to be interesting.

Miami a Finalist for LB Zach Brown:
The Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders are the two teams that have hosted linebacker Zach Brown, the former Bills free agent. It is rumored that Brown will choose between one of the two in the next few days.

Brown, 27, led the Bills with 143 tackles and added 4 sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles in 2016. He is reportedly seeking $6 million dollars per year. It is reported by Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald that the Dolphins are only offering in the $3-4 million-dollar range. Brown would upgrade a Miami unit that struggled in 2016. However, they’ve re-signed Kiko Alonso and signed free agent Lawrence Timmons in free agency. Brown would add another solid veteran presence.

Jets sign Patton, Ijalana to Deals:
The New York Jets made a couple of deals this week, re-signing T Ben Ijalana to a new deal. Ijalana, 27, started the first 13 games of his career in 2016 while appearing in all 16 games.  Playing both RT and LT, the 6’4”, 332-pounder totaled 868 offensive plays and 925 overall snaps, ranking fourth most on the offense and fifth most on the team respectively.

The team also signed free agent WR Quinton Patton from the San Francisco 49ers. Patton, 26, set career highs last season with 37 catches and 408 yards, playing 68 percent of the offensive snaps for the Niners. He’ll join Eric Decker and Quincy Enunwa as the primary WRs for the Jets this season.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Podcast: Patriots Free Agency Frenzy Part Two

Russ Goldman
March 24, 2017 at 11:53 am ET

In this episode, we discussed again the moves made by the Patriots this off-season. During the show, we discussed the trades for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy by the Patriots. We also talked about the signings of Dont’a Hightower, and Rex Burkhead by the team.

Malcolm Butler Posts Cryptic Photo About “Change” On Instagram

Robert Alvarez
March 22, 2017 at 11:23 pm ET

Another week, another cryptic and curious social media posting by a member of the New England Patriots.

On Instagram Wednesday, cornerback Malcolm Butler posted the following photograph of what appears to be himself on board an airplane with the caption “Nothing changed but the change. #Blessed.”

"Nothing changed but the change" #BLESSED

A post shared by Malcolm CB Butler (@mac_bz) on

At the time of this posting, Butler officially remains a restricted free agent with a first round tender, but various media reports say he is seeking a longer deal with more money. The New Orleans Saints have come out as the strongest suitor following a meeting with Butler a week ago.

So just what Is Butler hinting at? An agreement made with another team? A new contract with the Patriots?  Or maybe it means something entirely unrelated to football.

Stay Tuned.

Unless The Price Is Right, Patriots Should Hold On to Butler

Ian Logue
March 20, 2017 at 9:47 am ET

Anyone who has followed the Patriots over the last decade, there’s one thing we’ve learned when it’s come to finding reliable cornerbacks in Bill Belichick’s defense. It’s been a problem, and given all the discussions over the last week of jettisoning Malcolm Butler from the roster, it should definitely be something this team doesn’t do unless they’re being adequately compensated.

Some people are making the argument that the deal for Butler is simply a continuation of the trade involving receiver Brandin Cooks, which saw New England send the #32 overall selection in the first round, along with swapping selections in the 3rd and 4th rounds with New Orleans in exchange for adding Cooks to the roster.  But with time having passed since this escalated last week, the Saints need to realize that the value Butler brings in what is now a passing league is a valuable asset, and it should cost them a little more than they might have thought to get him.

Bill Belichick and Sean Payton may be friends but at the end of the day, both coaches understand that they’re each judged by wins and losses, and whatever deal they make needs to work well for both sides.  The Saints played hardball when it came to wanting more than just the Patriots #32 in order to feel fairly compensated for giving up Cooks, and you could make the argument that Butler is the equivalent in this trade and is certainly worth more than the rumored #32 selection that’s been speculated as currency to add Butler to their defense.


Letting Butler walk should come at a serious cost to whatever team wants him.

As for Butler, who is frustrated and has been working with his agent to orchestrate a deal out of New England, he has virtually no say in the matter.  He’s already been tendered at the first-round level for his restricted free agent contract, which would bump his salary up to $3.91 million and has New England in control of him for at least one more season.  As it stands right now, his current obligation is to suit up in Foxboro in 2017 before he’ll have an opportunity to take his talents elsewhere after the season.  While he hasn’t yet signed his tender, there will eventually come a deadline that will give the Patriots the right to reduce his salary if he doesn’t, much in the same way that it happened with Logan Mankins back in 2010 during a similar standoff.

Mankins didn’t care and his salary was cut, and he held out until the very end before he eventually signed the tender reported on November 7th just before the Browns game that season, which at the time was likely only done because it would have cost him the opportunity to become a free agent when the season ended.  The Patriots eventually reached an agreement on an extension for the veteran guard after they placed the franchise tag on him the following season, which put that situation to bed.

While Butler has said he won’t hold out, this whole mess still has a long way to play out should this deal with the Saints fall apart and the two sides, for now, seem too far apart to find common ground.

Make no mistake, Butler is one of the top corners of the game, having bucked the history here in New England of not enduring a second or third season slump that past players like Leigh Bodden, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler, among others, each went through and caused a ripple effect in their secondary.  This is a football team that had gone through a rough stretch developing cornerbacks and it wasn’t until recently that they finally had some success after what we’ve seen from Butler, along with the recently departed Logan Ryan.

As a result, they had been forced to overcome that by relying on signing free agents, with Aqib Talib and Darrelle Revis being two keys to their recent run of success.  But that’s a formula that only goes so far and it’s no secret that the money they saved during Butler’s rise to becoming a restricted free agent helped pave the way for other personnel deals that also played a factor in winning their most recent championship.

To let him go doesn’t make a lot of sense unless the deal is just too good to pass up.  While they may have gone out and signed Stephon Gilmore, having already lost Ryan to free agency, the cornerback position remains one that is still going to require depth and there’s no guarantee that Gilmore is going to hit the ground running and match Butler’s level of play.  Not to mention the fact Gilmore has only played in 16 full games just once during his NFL career (2012), unlike Butler who has played in all 16 over each of the last two seasons.


The Patriots have already lost Ryan to free agency this offseason.

Belichick may have a plan in mind but he’s likely aware of the painstakingly frustrating stretch he went through before the Patriots finally got their secondary in order and started getting more consistent play from the group they’ve built over the past few seasons.  With Ryan now in Tennessee and Butler’s future in question, Belichick should make sure that as much as he’d like to help his friend Sean Payton out, he needs to make sure that New Orleans coughs up at least the #11 selection, or he’ll simply start planning on the prospect of having both Butler and Gilmore lining up opposite each other for 2017.

Simply put, the Patriots are in the driver’s seat here and need to be smart.  Giving him away unless the deal is too sweet to turn down only benefits New Orleans, and the Patriots were more than fair by including another pick with the #32 pick when they acquired Cooks.  As great as that acquisition was, New England was already stacked with talent at receiver before making that deal and unfortunately, they don’t have that luxury right now at the cornerback position.

As a result, there’s really no room to do anyone any favors.  Now it’s just up to Belichick to take a tough stance and make sure the Patriots receive more than what they deserve in return for what they’d lose by not having Butler on the team next season.

New England Patriots News 3-19, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 19, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 3-19, & AFC East Notes.

Some guys just seem to pay attention more…was it just me or did Kony Ealy get the memo before ever stepping on the practice field for the Patriots? In his introductory conference call with the Patriots’ beat writers, Ealy must have mentioned the catch phrase “Do Your Job” about half a dozen times. If Bill Belichick was listening, he must have been smiling.

The Patriots have been one of the most active teams in free agency, but entering the period with $60 million in cap space and a slew of free agents this season, it really shouldn’t come as a big surprise. They’ve already addressed several spots on the roster and with nearly $27 million remaining in salary cap space, they have the flexibility to still be active.

With free agency and the draft coming up next month, what are some of the areas still needing additional depth for New England? The feeling here is DE, RB (big back), S, LB, CB.

Butler Situation Far from Resolved:
Malcolm Butler met with the Saints this week and afterward, New Orleans coach Sean Payton spoke highly of the Patriots restricted free agent cornerback. But don’t expect the Saints to be making him an offer anytime soon.

That situation would be the easiest for the Patriots, they could either match Butler’s offer or refuse to and get the Saints first round draft pick, which is #11 in the upcoming draft. There’s been some significant talk of the Saints offering the #32 pick, which the Patriots shipped to New Orleans for Brandin Cooks. The Patriots put a first round tender on Butler so that’s where negotiations would begin.

Malcolm Butler at 2016 Mini-camp (SBalestrieri photo)

Malcolm Butler at 2016 Mini-camp (SBalestrieri photo)

Will Bill Belichick dig in his heels for the #11 pick? Doubtful and the Saints will not want to pay that for Butler although he is a legit Top10 corner. Giving up the 32nd pick is where they’ll start. Will the Patriots want the equivalent value of #11 with 32 and added value?  Or will they accept a package of picks later down the line?

Ultimately the decision Bill Belichick is going to have to make is: Whatever the Saints decide to offer for Butler, is the value better than bringing him back under his $3.91 million tender? Then letting him play it out and walk next season in free agency and getting a 3rd round compensatory pick? This situation may play out until right before the NFL Draft.

Patriots Happy to Have ‘Overhyped, overrated’ Hightower Back:
The Patriots let free agent LB Don’t’a Hightower test the waters in free agency as the Patriots talented and tough linebacker wanted to see what his worth was on the open market. Hightower has said that he was disappointed in the offers but was happy with his deal, a 4-year, $43.5 million-dollar deal that returns him to New England.

Hightower received interest from the Saints, Titans, Jets, and Steelers with the final two making a push to sign the former #25 pick from the 2012 NFL Draft. Pittsburgh made an offer for him but told him that if he left without signing a deal, that the offer was off the table. It was then that Hightower decided to return to New England and remain a member of the Patriots.

Dont’a Hightower has re-signed with the Patriots for four years, $42.5 million dollars. (SBalestrieri photo)

The comments coming out of Pittsburgh, however, were interesting. Ed Bouchette, one of the most respected writers from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette seemingly took affront to Hightower rejecting the Steelers for New England. Bouchette wrote that Hightower “did the Steelers a favor” by rejecting their offer, calling him “overhyped’ and “overrated”. He said that the Steelers were better sticking with Vince Williams as their buck linebacker.

He cited stats to back up his claim that Hightower wasn’t a big-time player. We’ll respectively disagree here. This isn’t the fantasy football league and anyone who has watched the Patriots knows the value that 6’2, 265-pound linebacker brings to the defense. It isn’t about just sacks. The Patriots defense isn’t that type, but just like Richard Seymour, Willie McGinest, and Vince Wilfork before him, his value to the overall defense can’t be denied.

Just for kicks the leading sacker for the team was Trey Flowers with seven but New England’s defense was #1 in points allowed. And Hightower was the glue, in the middle. He’s more than an MLB/ILB, his sack of Matt Ryan in the Super Bowl came off the edge. The Patriots can and do move him around depending on the matchups. Belichick is surely happy to have his Pro Bowl/All Pro LB back in the fold. Overrated, overhyped and all.

Harmon Returns with a new 4-Year Contract:
Another one of the Patriots under the radar signings has been the re-inking of safety Duron Harmon. Harmon returned to the Patriots with a 4-year deal worth $17 million dollars this week and it was a good deal for both sides.

Harmon wasn’t a starter in his first four years here with New England but plays a valuable role in their ‘big nickel’ defense and has been productive. But most of all he loves it in New England and playing for Belichick. On a conference call with the team’s media this week, Harmon said the decision to return wasn’t a hard one.

“I love it here. I’ve built a lot of relationships here with people outside of football. My kids go to school here and just being a part of this organization – it means a lot to me. I really love playing for this organization. I love playing for Coach Belichick. I love being a part of Mr. Kraft’s team. In the end, just coming back here really wasn’t a hard decision. It was something that I ultimately wanted to do.

Burkhead Signing Another Intriguing Move By New England:
The Patriots other under the radar move this week was signing running back Rex Burkhead to a one-year deal worth $3.15 million dollars. He had a very solid season for the Bengals in 2016 carrying 74 times for 344 yards and adding 17 catches out of the backfield for 145 yards in limited action.

He’s a tough, no-nonsense player who will play special teams, can run the ball between the tackles and catch out of the backfield. He’s got good vision and can cut back against the grain and follows his blockers well. But at 5’10, 210, he’s about the same size as James White and just slightly bigger than Dion Lewis, (5’8,195).

The Patriots will probably still address the RB position; bringing back LeGarrette Blount or picking up another big back in the draft doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. But perhaps the coaching staff has decided that they know what works best for them. And having a trio of receiving backs that can run the ball a bit, (a fourth if you count D.J. Foster) and be very productive in the passing game may be the way they proceed in 2017?

Chris Long Explains His Decision to Move On in 2017:
Former Patriots defensive end Chris Long just returned from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and has yet to find a new team but has made it clear that he won’t be returning to New England just six weeks after winning a Super Bowl here.

Long joined the MMQB podcast this week and explained his decision why he doesn’t want to be a situational player at this point in his career. He came across as honest and forthright and one can certainly respect his position. He did everything asked of him in 2016 and was well respected in the Patriots locker room as well as on the field.

Chris Long will not be back with the Patriots in 2017 and explained his reasoning on a MMQB podcast. (SBalestrieri photo)

“Well, I knew I wanted to go and have a chance to win a ring and see what that felt like to win, and I want to continue to win in the league,” Long said. “You have to work really hard no matter what team you’re on to win, so there’s no guarantee wherever you are you’re going to win. I just tried to go to the place that gave me the best opportunity. And I said I would do anything to make that possible and to help.”

“And I don’t know if they wanted me back or not, but it was one of those things where it’s like, I have too much respect for that organization to waste their time and go back and forth in negotiations or not tell them that I was planning on moving on. I have too much respect for them. It wasn’t a big deal that I was moving on for them. They’ll be just fine. But for me as a man, I just think I would hate to string them along, even if I was just depth at a position or just a piece of the puzzle. “So, that’s kind of why I said I need to move on. If I’m going to keep playing football, I’m not going to do certain things that I was doing there. I was happy to do them this year, but hey, I’m a year older. If I want to keep playing, I’ve got to do certain things differently.”

“But shoot, I can’t remember the last year where I didn’t miss a day of work, and that’s kind of where I was at this year. I feel very good.”

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Sign Three Free Agents:
The Bills have just six draft picks this spring and with about 30 spots remaining on the roster to begin their offseason with the 90 players to begin OTAs, they’re going to lean on free agency as well as UDFAs after the draft is over. They began filling out their roster by signing three free agents on Friday, RB Joe Banyard, CB Leonard Johnson, and WR Corey Washington.

Johnson as many will remember spent some time with the Patriots in 2015 and played in four games with three starts. He played well in a limited role. He also had a unique celebration dance on the team at the time. He played for the Panthers and new Bills coach Sean McDermott in 2016 and logged 22 tackles, a pass defended, and a sack after returning from injury a year ago.

The Bills hold the #10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and after losing free agent Stephon Gilmore to the Patriots may be looking for help at corner, although they have numerous holes to fill.

Timmons, Thomas Signings Highlight Miami’s FA Start:
The Miami Dolphins are looking to improve upon a 10-win season and a playoff berth in 2016 and have been adding pieces to their team in the hope to keep the arrow pointed upward. The team signed longtime Pittsburgh LB Lawrence Timmons and also brought in TE Julius Thomas from Jacksonville and each will fulfill a big need.

Timmons 32, plugs a big gap on the inside where the Dolphins were 30th against the run in 2016. He’s big and physical and came on the heels of a 2-year deal worth $12 million. One interesting fact is that the Patriots targeted Timmons the last two times the Patriots played the Steelers, however. So, this will bear watching two times in 2017.

Miami lost the under-used and underrated Dion Sims in free agency but Thomas, if he can stay on the field, should be a very good replacement. They also brought back blocking TE Anthony Fasano as well as bringing back their own FAs Kenny Stills, Andre Branch, and Rashad Jones. It’s been a good start for HC Adam Gase’s second season.

Jets “Concerns” With Hightower Didn’t Appear with Offer, Who’s at QB?
The Jets made a concerted push to sign LB Dont’a Hightower in free agency. According to Jason La Canfora, they made a ‘significantly’ higher offer than either the Steelers or the Patriots. The reported deal on the table was for five years for $55 million with a total compensation worth $62.5 million.

But after Hightower re-signed with New England, reports filtered out of the Jets camp by ESPN’s Rich Cimini that the Jets balked after giving Hightower a physical, citing his shoulder and knee issues and withdrew the offer. Smoking gun down the road, or just a smokescreen to cover a missed opportunity?

The Jets meanwhile haven’t made any inroads on their QB situation. They reportedly aren’t interested in Colin Kaepernick who remains unsigned but have some interest in Jay Cutler and Josh McCown. Cutler is coming off of shoulder surgery and has never been able to put it all together, McCown? He’s lost 20 of his last 22 starts in the NFL. While Kaepernick has four playoff wins on his resume including a Super Bowl appearance where the 49ers narrowly lost.

One has to question, as it would be in Boston where Robert Kraft’s friendship with President Trump is often cited, is the Jets’ non-interest in Kaepernick fueled by political leanings? After all, Jets owner Woody Johnson, like Kraft was a big supporter of Trump.

And unlike Kraft, his friendship has gone completely under the radar. The President nominated Johnson to be the US Ambassador to Great Britain. Kaepernick has struggled the past few seasons but is more than equal to McCown and worthy of a look, unless he’s being blackballed for another reason.

Kaepernick’s political leanings and very public feelings on race would be touted in Boston as a big reason why the Patriots would pass. Why isn’t that the case in New York? Things that make you go hmmm.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Podcast: The Miguel Benzan Interview

Russ Goldman
March 17, 2017 at 9:11 am ET

This was a special episode of Patriots Fourth And Two as Miguel Benzan who is a Patriots salary cap expert, joined the show to talk about the Patriots off-season. Miguel shared his thoughts on Dont’a Hightower, Stephon Gilmore, Malcom Butler, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brandin Cooks, and Dwayne Allen. There will be a second interview with Miguel that will be recorded soon to discuss the rest of the Patriots moves this off-season.

With Visit with Saints On Deck, Is Butler’s Time in New England Over?

Ian Logue
March 14, 2017 at 1:53 pm ET

It would have been hard to imagine as the confetti fell in Houston just over a month ago that Malcolm Butler would be on the verge of being out of New England just six weeks later, barely removed from winning his second championship as a member of the Patriots.

It’s amazing just how quickly things can change, and now Butler’s future is suddenly in doubt given how things have transpired over the last week.

According to the Associated Press, Butler is scheduled to meet with the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, with Ian Rapoport reporting that it’s more than just a discussion to explore the cornerback’s options.  Rapoport reports that the two sides have already begun negotiations on a new contract, with the hopes of consummating a deal this week.

Butler is currently a restricted free agent and has a first-round tender placed on him by the Patriots, which for now, he hasn’t signed.  However, if New Orleans is offering what he wants and the Patriots are O.K. with making a deal to send him there, it’s possible Butler could sign the tender, which would allow New England to deal him.

The next question would be the type of compensation the Bill Belichick would be willing to accept.  The Saints currently have the Patriots 32nd overall selection that they traded in exchange to bring receiver Brandin Cooks to New England, as well as the 11th overall pick in the draft.  While an offer sheet that the Patriots could decline to match would yield them a first round pick (the higher of the Staints’ two selections), the fact Belichick has such a good relationship with Saints head coach Sean Payton would more than likely see them skip that process and work out the compensation from there.


Two years ago, Butler was a Super Bowl hero. Now, he might be done in New England.

The only question will be what the Patriots would receive in return.  Having just signed free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore, New England at least has someone they feel can be a quality top corner on their roster if they were to lose Butler.  They currently sit without a draft pick in the first two rounds, and it’s possible that by moving Butler, they’ll get back something to change that should a deal come to pass.

Another team reportedly in the mix could be the Houston Texans, with Eric Edholm reporting that the Texans are interested in possibly giving up  second-round selection if they can work out a long-term deal.  That would seem unlikely given that Belichick’s preference would likely be to send Butler out of the conference, and the fact it might not be a strong enough depending on what the Saints come through with.

Needless to say things are about to get interesting after an already crazy start to free agency this offseason, and it appears that more change is certainly on the way as the Patriots continue building the 2017 version of their roster.

Malcolm Butler Looking For Other Avenues Than the Patriots

Steve Balestrieri
March 13, 2017 at 6:43 am ET

The Patriots and Malcolm Butler seem to a couple heading for divorce. Numerous reports have Butler and his agent growing extremely frustrated with the Patriots and seeking another team to take him on and leave the Patriots.

While Butler would be an attractive target for a lot of teams looking for a very solid, physical cornerback, there is a sticking point that will make it very difficult for him to find a new home this season. Butler is not an unrestricted free agent. He’s still restricted and essentially belongs to New England for at least the 2017 season.

CB Malcolm Butler is not happy with his contract situation and is looking for another team to make him an offer. (SBalestrieri photo)

The Patriots placed a first round tender on Butler just prior to the deadline and he’ll get paid $3.91 million dollars by the Patriots if he signs his tender and plays for them in the 2017 season. Or he can get another offer from an opposing team in the league and the Patriots have the first right of refusal. But the big sticking point is, if the Patriots decline, that team will forfeit its first-round draft pick to the Patriots. That’s why it isn’t likely to happen that Butler will generate much interest.

The other avenue is that the Patriots trade Butler elsewhere. Apparently, that is exactly what they tried to do this weekend with the Saints in the Brandin Cooks deal. But the sticking point is the Patriots can’t trade Butler until he signs his tender. It is a classic Catch-22 situation.

Butler has reportedly stated that he wants the type of deal that Stephon Gilmore got from the Patriots, close to $40 million. The Patriots protected themselves against Butler leaving in signing Gilmore to a long-term deal. While he is arguably one of the top corners in the league, and definitely the top one available right now, he may find himself in a tough spot because he’s probably not going to find that kind of market for his services this season.

Will another team opt to give up its first-rounder for Butler? I find that scenario a bit hard to believe. While possible, I think a better scenario is that the teams that his agent is courting may be much more willing to give up a 2nd rounder for Butler in a trade. Whether or not the Patriots would agree is another story.

Butler is 27 and doesn’t want to hit his big payday at the age of 28 where he’d probably only get a three-year deal as an unrestricted free agent in his one big payday. You can certainly sympathize with his camp there. He’s earned his payday but the circumstances surrounding it have ultimately worked against him thru no fault of his own.

The Patriots would love to trot he and Gilmore out as a 1-2 punch at cornerback in 2017. Can it still happen? Possibly but unless they change their mind and pony up some serious cash, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards right now as Butler wants out.

But he may ultimately decide that he’s stuck in a difficult position and will have to play one final season in New England before moving on and getting his payday elsewhere. Regardless of how it turns out, it doesn’t seem like Butler will be in a Patriots uniform for the long term.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.