A large contingent of New England Patriots fans soon might be very let down and very vocal.
Much like New Orleans Saints fans in the lead-up to the Brandin Cooks trade, Patriots supporters are setting themselves up for disappointment when (in what seems to be an eventuality) free-agent cornerback Malcolm Butler is moved.
Saints fans heard reports they could receive a mid-first-round pick for Cooks’ services. That never was realistic, and instead they took the 32nd overall pick and a third-rounder in exchange for Cooks and a fourth-round pick.
In a twist of fate, Butler now is visiting the Saints on Thursday. When Patriots fans heard the news, they immediately assumed that meant the Saints would sign Butler to an offer sheet, and if the Patriots didn’t match it, they would receive New Orleans’ 11th overall pick. And if the Saints didn’t sign Butler to an offer sheet, then the teams would work out a trade for the equivalent of the 11th overall pick.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, WHOA.
Butler, once he signs his first-round tender, is only under contract for the 2017 season. No team is going to give up the 11th overall pick for one year of Butler, plus a massive contract. It’s not realistic, just like it wasn’t realistic for the Saints to receive a mid-first-round pick for Cooks, who only is under contract for two more seasons.
It’s more sensible that the Patriots and Saints would work out a deal that involves the same 32nd overall pick that New England just sent to New Orleans for Cooks. Perhaps the Saints would give up a little bit more, or perhaps the Patriots would package Butler with picks to soften the blow for New Orleans. It’s also possible — and this would make Patriots fans EXTREMELY angry — that New England would take less than a first-round pick for Butler.
This would not be doing the Saints a favor. This is negotiating.
It seems the Patriots know Butler only will be around for one more year. They haven’t worked out a long-term contract with him, and based on how they appear to value him, it seems highly unlikely they would franchise tag him in 2018. So, the Patriots would receive something of more value now for Butler rather than allowing him to leave in free agency next offseason while only getting a 2019 third-round compensatory selection in return.
This is similar, though not identical, to how the Patriots dealt Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins in 2016.
The Patriots could have kept Jones on a reasonable fifth-year option in 2016. Had Jones left in free agency this offseason, the Patriots would have received a 2018 third-round compensatory selection. Instead, they traded Jones to the Arizona Cardinals for a second-round pick and guard Jonathan Cooper.
The Patriots had Collins signed through the 2016 season and likely were to receive a 2018 third-round compensatory selection had he walked in free agency. Instead, they traded Collins to the Cleveland Browns for a 2017 third-round pick.
So why did the Patriots slap a first-round tender on Butler? Because they were unwilling to trade him for, let’s say, the 63rd overall pick.
Why don’t the Patriots keep Butler around on his $3.91 million tender in 2017 to ensure the team is as great as possible for one season? Because Bill Belichick isn’t the shortsighted type. He’d rather have four or five years of a first- or high second-round pick than Butler for one season.
It’s understandable why Patriots fans are upset at the thought of losing Butler. He’s a proven No. 1 cornerback and a homegrown player who made a franchise-altering play and still seems to be on the rise. But at this point, his departure seems like an inevitability, and Patriots fans shouldn’t set themselves up to be discouraged by assuming Butler is worth more than he is.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images