Tag Archives: Patriots cornerbacks

Patriots Draft Profile, Houston CB Howard Wilson

Steve Balestrieri
April 1, 2017 at 7:30 am ET

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.

Pros:

– 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

Cons

– 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.

Wilson’s highlight tape can be seen 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.

Who Will Be the Patriots’ Slot Corner in 2017?

Steve Balestrieri
March 31, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Butler For Cooks Deal Being Hashed Out Between NE-NO?

Steve Balestrieri
March 9, 2017 at 12:10 pm ET

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.

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.

New England Patriots Free Agent Profile Logan Ryan

Steve Balestrieri
February 18, 2017 at 12:44 pm ET

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.

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.

New England Patriots Free Agent Profile Malcolm Butler

Steve Balestrieri
February 15, 2017 at 8:49 am ET

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 in our opinion the 2nd most imperative to re-sign is cornerback Malcolm Butler.

The Patriots and Butler will forever be linked by the one play in Super Bowl XLIX where he intercepted Russell Wilson at the goal line and sealed the win for the Patriots. He was an UDFA out of West Alabama but we saw all that summer in training camp that he was a tenacious, physical defender who made plays every time he got on the field.

CB Malcolm Butler talks to the media after practice during the summer of 2016. (SBalestrieri photo)

That earned him a roster spot but the rookie corner didn’t see the field much because the Pats in 2014 had Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. But he earned the coaches’ trust and when the Super Bowl was on the line, they didn’t hesitate to put him in there, having practiced the specific play the Seahawks would run. We know the rest.

Determined not to be known as a one-play wonder, Butler became a starter in 2015 with Revis and Browner now having moved on. He became the starter at left corner and turned in a very solid 2015. This season, he was easily the Patriots best and most-trusted corner and earned Pro Bowl and 2nd Team All-Pro honors.

Frequently matched up with an opponent’s best wide receiver, Butler proved that he was no flash in the pan and has turned into an excellent cornerback. Not the biggest guy at 5’11, 190-pounds, he more than makes up for it with a physical, aggressive style where he broke up 13 passes between the regular and postseason.

He allowed fewer than 20 yards receiving in seven of the Patriots 19 games this season. Now it is no longer a question of if he’ll get paid, but how much? Butler is a restricted free agent in 2017 and is in line to get a nice payday.

Why Butler Will Return: The Patriots will most likely put a 1st round tender on Butler, being a restricted free agent. What does that mean? If a team signs Butler to an offer sheet, the Patriots would have the option of either matching the offer or receiving that team’s first round draft choice.

The first-round tender will guarantee a salary this season of about $4 million and give the Patriots the opportunity to sign the 26-year old to a long-term deal. PatsFans.com salary cap guru Miguel Benzan (@Patscap), worked out a likely scenario where the Patriots can lock up Butler for the next five years for about $52,500,000.

That would place him among the top 8-9 highest paid cornerbacks in the league. Butler has been a bargain for the Patriots thus far in his career, earning around $2 million in his first three years. His salary will double that in 2017 alone and then he’ll be ready to truly cash in 2018.

With a first-round tender, will another team sign him to an offer sheet? While conventional wisdom says no…it will bear watching. Unlike their unrestricted free agents, the Patriots have the advantage here of getting either a first round pick or being able to match any offer.

With unrestricted free agent cornerback Logan Ryan expected to draw big interest and probably signing elsewhere, it will be imperative for the Patriots to keep Butler in the fold.

Why Butler Won’t Return: Butler is a proven, battle-tested cornerback playing one of the toughest positions in a league where the passing game is the king. A two-time Super Bowl winner, he’s proven that he’s got what it takes when the game is on the line.

The Patriots tried to lock him up with an extension during the 2016 season it has been reported. But according to those same reports, he turned them down.

While unlikely, it is possible that there will be a team that wants him bad enough to sign him to an offer big enough for the Patriots to wash their hands and wish him well. We’ve seen teams do some crazy things in free agency, so this wouldn’t exactly be uncharted waters.

The caveat is that whatever team signs him would have to pony up their first-round draft pick in return.

Bottom Line: The Patriots know what they have in Butler. He’s been in their system for three years and has the coaches’ trust. While he can be beaten on occasion, he’s shown that he has a short memory and will keep that aggressive, tenacious style on every play. He never takes a play off, is very good in run support and at the age of 26 is in the prime of his NFL career. He’s been durable and hasn’t missed any practice or game time, something that is important to every team.

With the Patriots having the advantage of Butler being a restricted free agent, they have the advantage of either matching or taking a draft pick. In this case, a first round tender is what we expect the Patriots to place on him. With that in mind, the chances of Butler returning increase significantly. However, it would be in both the team’s and Butler’s best interest to work out a long-term deal sooner rather than later.

The only sticking point should be the guaranteed money. That is something that can be worked out and the above-mentioned scenario by @Patscap has the particulars down well in a deal that may work for both parties.

Butler, because he is a restricted free agent should return for at least the 2017 season. The chances of seeing him in uniform when training camp begins are better than 75 percent in our opinion.

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.

Ty Law Named Finalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame

John Morgan
January 3, 2017 at 11:39 pm ET

Former New England Patriot corner Ty Law has been named as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 

The Pats drafted Law 23rd overall in 1995 out of Michigan. Law is one of a select few to have won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. His pick-six off Kurt Warner and the heavily favored St Louis Rams in Super Bowl 36 is an iconic moment in New England sports history.

 

Law was named to five Pro Bowls and was twice a first team All Pro. He was named to the Patriots’ All-Decade Team for both the 1990s and the 2000s, and was also selected to the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary Team. In 2014 Law was honored as a member of the New England Patriots Hall of Fame.

 

In 1998 Law led the NFL with nine interceptions, and again led the league in 2005 with ten picks. Law finished his career with 59 interceptions, including six in the post-season. Five of those playoff picks came against NFL golden boy Peyton Manning. Further proof of how Law shone bright in the clutch is evidenced by 25 of his interceptions coming in the month of December.

 

Other finalists for the 2017 Hall of Fame class include running back LaDainian Tomlinson. LdT seemed to be a polar opposite of Ty Law when it came to games that took place after Thanksgiving – but he’ll still probably get enshrined in his first year of eligibility. Defensive end Jason Taylor and safety Brian Dawkins are two others on the ballot for the first time.

 

The fifteen finalists will be pared down once more to a group of no more than five. WR Isaac Bruce, G Kevin Mawae and OT Tony Boselli join Law in advancing this far for the first time. WR Terrell Owens, K Morten Andersen and G Alan Faneca were in the round of 15 last year, and return for another shot at Canton.

 

Former head coach Don Coryell, RB Terrell Davis, OT Joe Jacoby, S John Lynch, and QB Kurt Warner are also on the final 15 last. That group made it to the final ten a year ago.

 

As part of a separate voting process Paul Tagliabue and – no, this is not a misprint – Jerry Jones have received nominations as well as contributors. Safety Kenny Easley was also nominated by the veteran’s committee.

 

Notable names missing the final cut include HC Jimmy Johnson, LB Clay Matthews Jr, S Darren Woodson, S Steve Atwater, LB Karl Mecklenburg, OT Chris Hinton, RB Edgerrin James, WR Torry Holt and WR Hines Ward.

 

Breaking News: Patriots Trade Kline, Conditional 4th, to Philly for Eric Rowe

Steve Balestrieri
September 6, 2016 at 12:27 pm ET

 The Patriots just traded guard Josh Kline and a conditional 4th round draft pick which could become a 3rd rounder to the Philadelphia Eagles for CB Eric Rowe. This news was broken by NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.

Rowe, a 6’1, 205-pound cornerback for the Eagles has fallen down the depth chart recently and Philly was contemplating moving him to safety where he played for three years at Utah before moving to corner.

Philly selected him in Round 2 with the 47th Overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. This could be a look to the future since Logan Ryan is expected to be a free agent in 2017. Or perhaps the Patriots are looking to this week facing the bigger WRs of the Cardinals and will maybe plan on using him in a sub-package role.

It will be interesting to see where the Patriots envision him on playing since they have an abundance of safeties.

Kline had 18 starts in his Patriots career and was thought to be the backup right guard behind Shaq Mason, until Mason broke his hand. That job may now fall to Jonathan Cooper.

******Update****** This is from a piece I wrote last year about Rowe prior to the draft and how he’d fit with the Patriots:

Rowe is one of those guys who is being perhaps over-scouted and now draft pundits are possibly over-inflating his position after a very good Combine performance. Where he was seen as 3rd-to-4th Round prospect prior to the Combine, he’s now being mentioned as a 1st round guy. In that case the Patriots would likely pass.

If he were to go later in the draft, he’d be a very intriguing prospect. The best thing about Rowe is his versatility. He can play outside corner, in the slot or at free safety. And as we all know, Bill Belichick loves versatile players.

Rowe is at his best with the play in front of him and may be best suited in a zone scheme with safety help over the top. But that isn’t to say he hasn’t or can’t play man as a corner. He has the things a team would want in a cornerback, length, good speed and explosiveness on the ball. But with only a year under his belt playing the position, he’s still on the raw side.

If they select Rowe, he could be cast in a role similar but not quite the same as the team used Browner last season. He’d be the bigger, more physical corner that they’d use with safety help over the top.

His versatility though is very intriguing as in the case of an injury, he could step up and play free safety seamlessly. With some experience and coaching at the next level, Rowe could be a quality starter for the right team in the NFL. He probably wouldn’t be an immediate starter, but might take a year to develop.

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.