Defending Super Bowl Champs Pats place 1st round RFA tender on Super Bowl XLIX hero – Malcolm Butler

Miguel Benzan
March 7, 2017 at 10:04 pm ET

Today we learned that the Patriots placed a first round RFA tender on Malcolm Butler. This blog hopes to explain the RFA tender process.

BACKGROUND:

A restricted free agent is a player with 3 or less accrued seasons at the completion of their contract. The team can choose one of three right of refusal tenders on the player. A first round tender, second round tender, or original draft position tender. Each tender has an assigned contract value amount. Another team can attempt to sign the player to a new contract, but the original team has the right to match it. If the original team does not match they will receive draft value equaling the original tender. If a team places a 1st round tender on a RFA and another team signs that player to a tender offer and the player’s old team does not match the player’s old team will get the new team’s 2017 first round pick. If a team places a 2nd round tender on a RFA and another team signs that player to a tender offer and the player’s old team does not match the player’s old team will get the new team’s 2017 second round pick. If a team places a low round tender on a RFA and another team signs that player to a tender offer and the player’s old team does not match the player’s old team will get the new team’s draft selection at the player’s original draft round. The player’s old team will not receive any draft picks if the player was undrafted.

Butler has three accrued seasons (2014, 2015 and 2016 ). His 2014 contract will reach its completion at 3:59:59 PM March 9 (the end of the 2016 NFL League Year). His 2017 salary will be $3.91 million. Butler’s 2017 salary will not be guaranteed. He will start to receive his salary during the regular season. He will earn $230,000 ($3,910,000 divided by 17 weeks). Please note that NFL players are paid during their team’s bye week.

Hopefully, that is enough background. I would now like to go over the possible scenarios.

Withdrawing the Tender before Malcolm Butler signs it:
This is by far the least likely scenario. If the Patriots withdraw the tender before Malcolm signs it, he immediately becomes a street free agent. He then could sign with any team in the NFL and the Patriots would not receive any compensation in either 2017 or in 2018. Under this scenario, Malcolm would not qualify for the compensatory pick calculations.

Waiving Malcolm Butler after he has signed the tender:
If the Patriots waive Malcolm after he has signed the tender, he then goes through the waiver process. If claimed, his new team would then become responsible for his $3.91 million salary. Until after the 3rd week of the 2017 season the waiver order is set by the 2016 record so the Browns would have top priority in claimimg any waived player. If unclaimed, he immediately becomes a street free agent. He then could sign with any team in the NFL and the Patriots would not receive any compensation in either 2017 or in 2018. Under this scenario, Malcolm would not qualify for the compensatory pick calculations.

Malcolm Butler signs tender and does not sign an offer sheet from another team:
Malcolm would then play the 2017 season with his salary being $3.91 million. He would then become an UFA after the 2017 season. He could then receive the franchise tag in 2018. The 2017 franchise tag for cornerbacks is $14.212 million. It is likely to be over $15 million in 2018.

Malcolm Butler does not sign tender but agrees to a long-term extension with the Patriots:
Malcolm would then play the 2017 season under the terms of his extension. Most recent precedent is the extension that linebacker Brandon Marshall reached with the Denver Broncos in June 2016 after receiving a 2nd round tender in March of that year.

Here is what I consider a fair deal between Butler and the Patriots. Please note that I consider him a Top 5 cornerback. Please note that if Malcolm was an UFA this offseason I would expect him to reach a deal in the 14M to 15M range.

Butler deal projection

Malcolm Butler does not sign his tender and does not sign an offer sheet from another team:
On June 15th the Patriots have the right to lower his tender offer from $3.91 million to 110% of his 2016 salary or $660,000.

Malcolm Butler does not sign his tender and decides not to show up for OTAs and the preseason:
As long as Malcolm shows up for the last six games he will obtain credit for an accrued season in 2017 and then become an UFA in 2018. Precedent – Logan Mankins in 2010. Malcolm would forgo his weekly salary – $230,000 if tender remains at $3.91 million; $38,824 if tender is lowered to $660,000. It is likely that under this scenario that the Patriots will be given some time to absorb Butler onto their 53-man roster.

Malcolm Butler receives an offer sheet from another team and signs it:
If the Patriots tender Malcolm Butler and another team signs him to an offer sheet and the Patriots do not match that offer sheet, the Patriots will receive his new team’s 2017 first round pick. If a team like the Cleveland Browns has multiple first-round picks, they must give up their assigned pick or a pick that is better than their assigned pick. If a team like the Los Angeles Rams does not have a first-round pick, they must acquire a first-round pick that is equal or better than their assigned first round pick in order to sign Butler to an offer sheet. A team like the Minnesota Vikings who does not have a first-round pick does not acquire a first-round pick that is better than their assigned first round pick they can not sign Butler to an offer sheet. The Patriots have 5 days to match the offer. The first day that Malcolm can sign an offer sheet is March 9th when free agency begins. The last day is April 21st. If the Patriots match the offer, the offer is then the contract that Malcolm plays under the 2017 season. Please note that if Butler wants to leave the Patriots he and his new team could work a trade for less than a 1st round pick as doubtful as that may be.

Who are the teams that are prohibited by the CBA to go after Malcolm?
Minnesota Vikings No 1st round pick
Los Angeles Rams No 1st round pick

Who are the teams that I doubt would go after Malcolm Butler? 
Cleveland Browns  – Draft Slot is too high to give up for Butler
San Francisco 49ers –  Draft Slot is too high to give up for Butler
Chicago Bears  – Draft Slot is too high to give up for Butler
Jacksonville Jaguars –  Draft Slot is too high to give up for Butler
New York Jets – Not enough cap space
San Diego Chargers – Draft Slot is too high to give up for Butler
Carolina Panthers – Did not sign Josh Norman to a long-term deal last year.
Cincinnati Bengals-  Draft Slot is too high to give up for Butler
Buffalo Bills  – Draft Slot is too high to give up for Butler
New Orleans Saints –  Draft Slot is too high to give up for Butler
Arizona Cardinals – Draft Slot is too high to give up for Butler and Chandler Jones franchise tag will take up space
Philadelphia Eagles – The 15th pick is not better than their original pick at 12
Baltimore Ravens – Not enough cap space
Washington Redskins-  Need is not high enough
Denver Broncos –  No Need
Miami Dolphins – Need is not high enough
New York Giants – Need is not high enough
Houston Texans – If they can’t afford Bouye, can’t afford Butler and giving up a 1st rounder
Seattle Seahawks –  Not enough cap space
Kansas City Chiefs – Not enough cap space
Dallas Cowboys  – Not enough cap space
Pittsburgh Steelers  – May not have enough cap space after tagging Bell and move does not fit modus operandi
Atlanta Falcons –  Need is not high enough

Who are the teams that may be should go after Malcolm but I doubt that they will?Indianapolis Colts – The Trent Richardson failure may prevent them from making this move
Oakland Raiders  – Have need but cap space may be taken up by Carr and/or Mack
Green Bay Packers –  Need but move does not fit modus operandi

Who are the team who could go after Malcolm?
Tennessee Titans – Have both cap Space, Need
Tampa Bay Buccaneers –  Have need and cap space
Detroit Lions  – Have both cap Space, Need

Q: What is an accrued season?
A: An accrued season is a season during which the player was at full pay status for a minimum of 6 regular season games. They player does not gain an accrued season if the player is on Reserve PUP, Commissioner’s Exempt List, or a team’s practice squad. Games on Injured Reserve do count in the accrued season calculation.

Q: How many accrued seasons does Malcolm Butler have?
A: Three

Q: How much money has Malcom Butler made in salary during his NFL career?
A: 2014 – $420,000
2015 – $510,000
2016 – $600,000
for a total of $1,530,000. This is just salary and does not include postseason pay and performance-based pay.

Q: If a team offers a contract to Malcolm Butler, in what draft (2017 or 2018) will their first round pick come from if the Patriots decide not to match?
A: The 2017 draft

Q: Can the Rams or the Vikings who do not currently have a 2017 first-round pick sign Malcolm to an offer sheet?
A: They would need to first obtain a 1st round pick that is equal or better than their original pick (Rams – 1st overall pick through the 5th overall pick; Vikings – – 1st overall pick through the 14th overall pick)

Q: What pick would the Browns who currently have two first round picks have to give up if they signed Malcolm Butler?
A: Their original pick (the #1 overall pick) and not the 12th overall pick

Q: What pick would the Titans who currently have two first round picks have to give up if they signed Malcolm Butler?
A: Their original pick (the #18 overall pick) and not the 5th overall pick.

Q: Who was the last RFA to be signed away on a first round tender?
A: Laveranues Coles in the 2003 draft. Washington signed Coles to a 7-year $35 million deal that included a $13 million signing bonus. In 2003 the franchise tag number for a wide receivers was $5.01 million so Coles received franchise player money. The Jets declined to match and then received Washington’s 1st round pick in the 2003 draft (the 13th overall). On April 25, 2003 the Jets traded the 13th overall pick to the Bears as a part of a trade to move up to the 4th overall pick to then select Dewayne Robertson.

Q: Can an offer sheet contain poison pills?
A: No.

Q: What Patriot players are contenders to be tagged in 2018 besides Malcolm?
A: Jimmy Garoppolo. Please note that Nate Solder cannot be tagged in 2018 per an agreed-upon clause in his deal.

Q: Is Malcolm Butler’s 2017 salary guaranteed like the salaries of franchise-tagged players?
A: No.

Added on March 9th:

Q: Could Malcolm Butler talk to the 31 other teams  during the legal tampering period?
A: No.

Q: Can Malcolm Butler negotiate with the 31 other teams  after 4PM March 9th?
A: Yes.

Q: Can Malcolm Butler be traded without first signing the tender?
A: No

Q: How would a trade with another team work?

A: The Patriots and the other team agree on the terms of the trade (be it Butler for a player or Butler for draft picks or some combination of the three).  Butler and other team agree to a deal. The NFLPA then approves trade. Butler signs tender. Trade is then executed. Butler and other team then executes long-term deal.

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