The Patriots will honor the newest member of the franchise’s Hall of Fame today. During a half time ceremony at Gillette Stadium the Pats will hold a ceremony for Raymond Clayborn. The legendary number 26 is coincidentally the 26th person to join the Patriots Hall of Fame.
While I most certainly hoped Clayborn would get the nod this year, I wasn’t expecting it to turn out this way. I was very pleasantly surprised that the voting by Patriot Nation looked beyond recent star players. Thank you to all Patriot fans who did a bit of research that resulted in Clayborn’s induction. Fans could have easily gone along with the more recent memories. Richard Seymour, a future Pro Football Hall of Famer in my opinion, was a finalist. So was Mike Vrabel, a key defender for three championship teams, and one of the most versatile players in NFL history.
Clayborn set the franchise record with 36 career interceptions (since tied by Ty Law). He returned three kickoffs for touchdown his rookie year, averaging 31 yards per return that season. Clayborn became a starter his second season and along with Mike Haynes combined for one of the best cornerback tandems in NFL history.
Don’t take my word on it; consider what the Pro Football Hall of Fame CB had to say on the subject.
“(NFL.com) did a poll of the top cornerback tandems, and they had myself and Lester Hayes at No. 1,” recalled Haynes. “You know what? Myself and Raymond might have been just as good. Really. Raymond Clayborn was a star.”
Clayborn was a three-time First Team All Pro but stats alone do not adequately state his impact. He was part of a core group of players that turned the franchise around from the worst team in the league to one of the NFL’s best. Perhaps if he had a Super Bowl ring – which was earned but stolen away in the Ben Dreith travesty – he and some other players from the late seventies would have been held in higher regard. Clayborn played in a team record 161 consecutive games and was named to the Patriots All-Decade Team for both the 1970s and 1980s.
Congratulations to Raymond Clayborn on this well deserved honor.
The Patriots on Saturday have swung a trade with the Detroit Lions on the edge of cut-down time for the cornerback and special teams standout Johnson Bademosi.
The Lions will get a 6th Round Draft Pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The two teams have been frequent trade partners since Bob Quinn took over the GM duties for the Lions. He was a member of the Patriots front office and is close to Bill Belichick.
Bademosi, 27, 6’0, 200 pounds signed with the Lions last season to become a key contributor on their coverage teams. He found some defensive reps through injuries last season but struggled in coverage.
This move won’t be good news to the Patriots corners on the bubble with the roster cut-down due at 4 p.m.
The Patriots head into training camp at the end of next week and there should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. And we’re on to the Secondary and specifically the corners.
Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. With a roster of 90 players and no cuts needed before the final 53-man roster cut down, there will be plenty of time for evaluation. And some serious decisions will have to be made to get to the 53-man limit at the end of camp this summer.
So next up is the Patriots’ cornerback position. This spring the Patriots lost CB Logan Ryan who was a very valuable player for them. But the sting of his loss was more than made up for with the signing of Gilmore who came over from the Bills. All spring long the rumor had Malcolm Butler being traded but the deadline passed and he’s still here. That gives the team, embarrassingly deep riches at corner. Which means that they’ll be able to mix and match at the third or slot corner position depending on the opponent.
So, with that in mind who is locked in and who is on the bubble?
Roster Locks- Cornerback: Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore The team laid out some healthy dough for Gilmore who is a bigger, physical corner and immediately upgrades the position. The Bills had him playing too much off-coverage which wasn’t his strength. And a look at the opposing schedule this season and the wide receivers that they’ll be facing shows that they selected Gilmore specifically with this in mind.
Stephon Gilmore will be a big piece of the NE secondary in 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)
He looks to be exactly what they’re looking for and thru the spring workouts, he was trying to glue himself tightly with the wide receivers in practice. They’ll be no off-coverage with him this year. The only question with him is how well he learns the defense and picks everything up.
Butler was the subject of countless trade rumors going to the Saints this spring. But being a restricted free agent, New Orleans balked at paying the Patriots asking price of a 1st round pick. The end result was that no one else was going to pay the price either. Next spring? That may be a different story when Butler can hit free agency. But the other 31 teams’ loss is the Patriots gain.
Butler has shown the ability to stick with opponent’s top receivers, be physical and stay on the field. He’s rarely banged up and never misses any practices or games. His biggest asset is his short memory. Butler can get beat on one play and unlike other corners who will dwell on that, he puts it right behind him and is back competing hard again. Together the duo of Butler and Gilmore on paper looks to be a very good one.
Near Roster Locks: Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones The Patriots brought in Eric Rowe last season and the young, third-year corner bounced between the slot and outside at times. Whether that was dependent on matchups and moving Ryan into the slot or Rowe’s inability to is a subject for debate. But he’s another big (6’1) corner who showed he can cover bigger wide receivers on the outside.
Jonathan Jones certainly turned some heads this spring. One of the fast players on the team, Jones impressed enough last summer to earn a roster spot. This spring he was getting a lot of work in the slot where his speed and short area quickness can be brought to bear. He’s generously listed at 5’10 but seems to be a bit shorter than that. But if he can continue to stick to the slot receivers, he’ll see plenty of work in the secondary this season. Plus, his work on special teams makes him almost a lock.
Jonathan Jones battles with Edelman in minicamp. (SBalestrieri photo)
Cyrus Jones had a rookie season he’d probably like to block from his memory. Having superb return skill and experience, he was thought to provide the team with an immediate upgrade in the return game while competing for slot corner duties. Neither happened. Starting in minicamp, Jones treated kicks like kryptonite and he never made an impression on defense. To make matters worse he was ejected from one game for fighting. He’ll look to make a huge jump in play this summer but his leash will be much shorter. Still, by virtue of his draft position, he’ll probably be safe…for now.
On the Bubble: Justin Coleman, D.J. Killings The Patriots got a good return from UDFA Justin Coleman who played some valuable snaps for them in 2015. The 24-year old probably thought his role would increase with the leaving of Logan Ryan and the Butler trade rumors. Now he’s going to have to fight and produce really well just to stick.
Killings is one of those UDFAs that the Patriots seem to find every year and who carves out a roster spot. He didn’t get invited to the NFL Combine but had a very impressive Pro Day at Central Florida, running a 4.48 in the 40-Yard Dash, 6.97 in the 3-Cone Drill, leaping 37.5 inches on the vertical and doing 22 reps on the Bench Press which would have been tied for most by a defensive back.
He’s feisty, competitive, and versatile. He’s lined up all over the field and is an intriguing guy. The Patriots liked him enough to guarantee him $31,000 this spring. Don’t go to sleep on him this summer. He’ll be a guy to watch.
Outside Looking In… Long Shots: William Likely, Kenny Moore, Dwayne Thomas Without any of the top five guys getting injured, I don’t see much of a chance for any of these three guys to make a big enough impression to make the roster. These three are really fighting for practice squad eligibility.
Likely is an undersized (5’7 but listed at 5’9 ½) corner who is very versatile and can play both offense and defense. He lined up as both a corner and a WR in the same game for Maryland in 2015. His size will make things difficult for him at the NFL level.
Thomas shows good coverage in the slot during minicamp. (SBalestrieri photo)
Moore is another smaller (5’9) but very athletic slot corner from Valdosta State. He played both safety and in the slot but would have to make it with the Pats as a corner.
Thomas is a versatile guy and has played strong safety, slot, and perimeter corner in his college career at LSU. He’s got good size at 6’0, 200-pounds for a corner but may be undersized at strong safety. He’ll have the time to make an impression but faces a pretty steep uphill climb.
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 are in a state of flux at cornerback. They signed Stephon Gilmore to a big contract in free agency and the big corner is going to be looked at to provide man coverage on the many big WRs the team will face in 2017. Eric Rowe returns, after being brought over from Philadelphia, he played well in the second half of the season and into the playoffs.
They have depth guys, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, and Justin Coleman. Coleman played a lot of snaps in 2015 and the two Jones should be expected to make a big jump in their second season with the team. But the big question remains on where will Malcolm Butler be in 2017.
If the team can bring back Butler for at least the upcoming season on his tender, then the team will have a trio of starters with him, Rowe, and Gilmore that they’ll be able to mix and match with anyone and plenty of depth behind them.
Corners, like edge rushers, however, you can never have too many good ones. So, if Butler is either dealt or signs an offer sheet elsewhere the team will look to add another corner.
Howard Wilson from Houston is a very good athlete with excellent length, size, and speed to be a productive corner in the NFL. He has fantastic athleticism and has the loose hips that allow him to turn and mirror with wide receivers. He wins his share of 50/50 passes and shows tremendous instincts and ball skills. He has a very smooth back pedal and his technique and fundamentals are solid.
Wilson made 54 tackles (45 solo), including 2.5 for a loss, and picked off five passes, had 10 passes defensed and recovered two fumbles for the Cougars in 2016. He’s smart, aggressive and can bait the opposing QB into making an ill-advised throw.
At 6’1, 184-pounds he has the length but needs to add some weight at the NFL level. His experience is somewhat limited because he missed nearly the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL. However, it didn’t stop him from being a willing and aggressive tackler in the running game.
Some scouts believe that Wilson could have been a first round pick in 2018 if he returned to college for one more season. He has tremendous short area quickness and ran a 6.68 in the 3 Cone Drill and a 3.94 in the 20-Yard Shuttle.
– Excellent length, size, and athleticism to match up with wide receivers
– Fantastic short area quickness and burst
– Smart, coachable player with outstanding instincts
– Fundamentals and technique are very solid
– Needs to bulk up a bit at the NFL level
– Played at a lesser level of competition in AAC
– Experience is somewhat limited due to his injury in 2015
What his Role Will Be:
Wilson will immediately challenge for some snaps at the position of nickel or slot corner. He’ll also be given some work as a gunner on special teams.
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? Yes, he’ll need to spend some time in the gym with the strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera and bulk up a little bit between Years 1 – 2. With some experience, he should be ready to compete for a bigger role in the rotation in the secondary.
How Many Downs Can He Play? Three
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace? He’ll compete with the Jones’ and Coleman right away for reps at the slot corner position. That will set some great competition for minicamp and training camp this summer.
What is his ST Value? Good, he can provide kick coverage and will see some practice time as a gunner in the kicking game.
Conclusion: Wilson is another guy who may just be flying under the radar a bit entering the 2017 NFL Draft. With a draft deep in talented cornerbacks, he has all the traits that you look for in a good, starting player on the outside. And sheer numbers may force him down into a lower draft position.
He has tremendous instincts and can read the quarterback easily and accurately. His loose hips allow him to turn and run without loss of speed to mirror wide receivers down the field. Wilson’s short area burst and quickness coupled with good timing will allow him to break up or intercept passes.
He’ll need to get a bit bigger and could possibly add another 10-15 pounds of muscle on his frame in the NFL. But he has excellent potential and could become a very productive corner for many years to come. He has the size, speed and athleticism, he just needs some more experience.
Wilson will probably be available in the 3rd round of the draft. He’d be a nice addition to the Patriots defense as his skill set would mesh perfectly. With what they do as his man coverage skills should immediately provide him with not only the opportunity to get some reps in 2016 but become a productive, valuable cornerback in the defense.
The Patriots will have an interesting mix on their hands at the cornerback position if they can persuade Malcolm Butler to come back at least for this season. They’ll have Butler, newly signed Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, and Justin Coleman as their corners (as of right now) unless they add another in the draft.
The question everyone is asking is, “Who will play in the slot?” And the easy answer is, all of them could at one time or another.
With Rowe and Gilmore being 6’1, they could line up them outside and push Butler into the slot where he’d line up on the quicker shiftier receivers much like Logan Ryan and before him, Kyle Arrington did in the past. But the NFL being what it is, many teams now try to line up their big WRs in the slot attempting to get them more of a free release and take advantage of matchups.
We’ve seen this many times, and the Patriots would have the option of sliding any of their corners around depending upon those matchups. Flashback to Super Bowl XLIX, Arrington was being matched up with the Seahawks Chris Matthews who had a huge size advantage on him. Bill Belichick then slid Brandon Browner into the slot and the physical 6’4 corner quickly erased Matthews.
In 2016, the team used Butler and Eric Rowe on the outside and moved Logan Ryan into the slot. Butler has developed into one of the best corners in the game. He has a short-term memory, is very physical, doesn’t back down from a challenge and will jump up into the fray in support of the running game. He is outstanding in press man coverage at the line and is versatile enough to play on the outside or bump into the slot.
He is a perfect fit, depending on the matchups to play in the slot. The Patriots would have two big corners in Gilmore and Rowe and a slightly smaller but very athletic Butler. This is a secondary that could mix and match with anyone. Things become slightly murkier however if they do end up trading Butler.
The slot corner position would then be open for competition between Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, and Justin Coleman. At that point, I think the Patriots would add a corner thru the draft if Butler leaves. But I truly believe sans Butler the job would be Cyrus Jones’ to lose.
Forget about 2016, that nightmarish rookie season is long gone. He got off to a rocky start in minicamp last spring with issues holding on to punts in the return game and it carried over into the season. Jones is starting with a clean slate this spring and I expect much, much better results from him on the defensive side of the ball in 2017.
He was much too good in Nick Saban’s defense in Alabama to forget how to play football. Jones has excellent press coverage skills, is a good, willing tackler in the running game and is more than athletic enough to cover anyone from the slot position. Obviously, without Butler, it would be a step-down, but the team and the rest of the secondary members could make it work.
Coleman and Jonathan Jones are the dark horses here but never say never…especially in New England. Coleman played some in 2015 and did fairly well overall. Jones had some flashes in training camp a year ago but it will be interesting to see how he looks in Year 2.
Devin McCourty at free safety and Pat Chung at strong safety in the box provide excellent overall play and still have plenty left in the tank although Chung’s physical play down low is bound to start taking a toll on his body soon.
Duron Harmon was brought back with a nice new deal that works well for both sides. He’s the guy that comes in for the Big Nickel formations. One player that may be replaced this summer is Jordan Richards. He’s been disappointing and is too stiff in the hips to be a consistent player in coverage.
The best-case scenario? Butler signs his tender and returns with a big chip on his shoulder and wants to show the rest of the league that he deserves a big money contract. With Gilmore, Rowe, and he providing three very good cornerbacks, the defense will be ready for the cavalcade of opposing QBs that they’ll face in 2017.
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:
Ability to Play Press Corner and Jam at the line
Must be Willing in Run Support
Sure Tackler (Logan Ryan)
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.
– 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
– 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.
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.
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.
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.
Just when you resign yourself that the Patriots are going to be quiet on Day 1 of free agency, something like today happens. First, the team is reportedly signing Bills CB Stephon Gilmore to a 5-year deal in the neighborhood of $14 million dollars per year. Now comes the news that the Patriots are talking a trade with New Orleans with Malcolm Butler and Brandin Cooks being dealt straight up.
Dianna Russini of ESPN was the first to report that the player for a player deal is being discussed and after the Gilmore news, it isn’t surprising.
CB Malcolm Butler could possibly be traded to the Saints for WR Brandin Cooks via ESPN’s Diana Russini. (SBalestrieri photo)
It is just speculation at this point, but like the Wes Welker/Danny Amendola situation, the Patriots no doubt had a backup plan. There have been rumors that Butler’s agent wants him to be paid like an unrestricted free agent. Butler may have been refusing to sign his 1-year tender, so Bill Belichick pulled the deal with Gillmore out of his hat and now they’re trying to trade Butler for Cooks, who they coveted anyway.
The Saints need defensive help especially in their secondary and Butler would be an immediate upgrade. Cooks would make an already potent Patriots offense even scarier with a player that can go deep.
The sticking point is that Butler would have to either sign his tender with the Saints or do a long-term deal with New Orleans.
Again, it is just speculation here, but it seems the relationship has soured with Butler and the Patriots. Obviously trying to deal him signals that there is no way that the team is expecting that any deal can get done between the two sides and that Butler, will not sign his tender with New England.
If the Patriots make this deal and Logan Ryan leaves via free agency as is expected, it would leave New England with Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, and Justin Coleman at cornerback.
The Patriots will enter the beginning of the 2017 league season with several important decisions to make in regards to free agency. While the team has the third most salary cap room in the NFL this season, they have a slew of free agents including several who are either starters or important role players.
We’ll be doing profiles on each of the free agents in the upcoming days and give you our take on whether they return or move on. One of the starters and a very important piece is cornerback Logan Ryan.
The Patriots picked up Ryan with the 83rd pick in the 3rd Round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The Rutgers alum stepped in and played well as a rookie appearing in all 16 games and logging seven starts. With the additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in 2014, his playing time and confidence was curtailed somewhat.
With the previous two’s departure after Super Bowl XLIX, Ryan again was elevated to a starting role and played well in 2015. He’s had bouts of inconsistency, and the beginning of 2016 was no exception. He was surpassed early in the campaign by Eric Rowe before really turning around his play down the stretch and into the playoffs. He played the best football of his career in the second half of 2016 and at 26, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t get even better.
Ryan is a sure tackler and is outstanding in run support. He’s 5’11, 195-pounds and is often tasked with covering an opponent’s top WR with over the top safety help. He specializes in man coverage and plays WRs tight to the line and is a physical, sticky corner when he is on top of his game.
Why Ryan Will Return: The Patriots have a ton of cap space and could easily pay Ryan the cash that would be needed to keep him in a Patriots uniform. He’s durable and has been active for every game in his four-year career since entering the NFL.
Bill Belichick loves versatile, durable players and Ryan fits the bill on both. He can play outside, locked up on an opponent’s top WR or slide inside in the slot. He’s not the biggest guy but isn’t afraid to stick his nose into the mix in the running game.
He’s among the surest tacklers on the team and rarely does a receiver or a runner gets many yards after contact with Ryan. He’s a trusted, veteran member of the defense who knows the calls down pat and is never out of position. He’s a very good playmaker with the ball in the air with six interceptions and 25 passes defensed in the last two seasons, along with a forced fumble and 131 tackles.
Why Ryan Won’t Return: There are always teams looking for trusted, veteran corner that can play man coverage and always be in position. And his versatility with the ability to play inside or outside is a bonus.
With many teams needing such a player, they’ll likely throw much more money than the Patriots can afford. While the Pats do have plenty of cap space, with Malcolm Butler and Dont’a Hightower already needing new deals and with others on the defense also up for renegotiation, Butler may be the odd man out.
Bottom Line: It will be interesting to see how much money other teams will throw at Ryan who is a #2 corner. One possible destination will be Jacksonville. The Jaguars desperately need cornerback help and Butler’s versatility and ability would be great fits.
Although the Patriots would love to see Ryan back, he’s probably going to get paid and paid well. He’s young enough to be a very solid contributor for the next several years and a durable, tough corner is always in demand.
I see another team giving Ryan a nice big contract and the Patriots waving goodbye. The chances of Ryan returning are probably less than 30 percent. He’s earned his payday and will take advantage.