The prospect of playing in the same secondary as Malcolm Butler excites Stephon Gilmore, whom the New England Patriots signed to a big-money contract last week.
Whether he’ll get the chance to do so, however, remains to be seen.
Butler, the Patriots’ No. 1 cornerback for the past two seasons, currently is a restricted free agent and has yet to sign the first-round tender the Patriots placed on him. The addition of Gilmore, who signed a five-year, $65 million deal with New England, complicated Butler’s future, as the latter would make just $3.91 million this season if he plays under the tender.
Gilmore was asked about Butler several times Monday during his introductory conference call with New England reporters.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with that, but I’m looking forward to it,” the former Buffalo Bills cornerback said. “He’s a great player. He’s made a lot of good plays in the league. So I would love to team up with him and play with him.”
Butler’s rise to stardom has been one of the more remarkable stories in the NFL over the past few seasons. Entering the league as an undrafted free agent, he capped an otherwise nondescript rookie season with a Super Bowl-sealing interception, then proved he was no one-hit wonder by earning a Pro Bowl selection in 2015 and second-team All-Pro honors this season.
“Obviously, he came in the league undrafted, so he came in and grinded his way up to the top,” Gilmore said. “And he’s made a lot of good plays in the league, so you’ve got to respect him as a player. He’s made a lot of great plays on big stages. I definitely respect him as a player.
“Playing in this league, you’ve got to have a strong mentality playing at the corner position, and I think he has that. He has that fight in him. That’s one thing that sticks out from watching him. He always comes back. If you get him, he always puts it behind him and makes plays the next play.”
Though Butler and unrestricted free-agent linebacker Dont’a Hightower remained unsigned as of Monday afternoon, Gilmore joins a very talented Patriots defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL in 2016.
New England lost cornerback Logan Ryan to free agency but was able to re-sign defensive tackle Alan Branch and safety Duron Harmon. It also added defensive end Kony Ealy and defensive lineman Lawrence Guy via trade and free agency, respectively.
“(Butler is) not the only person that I’m looking forward to working with,” Gilmore said. “I’m just looking forward to talking to the coaches and players and getting to know them pretty well.”
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images