Malcolm Butler probably won’t be playing for the New England Patriots next season after being benched for the team’s Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Butler is a free agent and likely will have plenty of offers for his services.
So, where exactly will Butler land?
ESPN’s panel of NFL insiders offered their predictions in an article published Monday on ESPN.com, and it’s clear the cornerback’s free agency is one of the league’s most fascinating offseason storylines.
The list of predictions is below.
Matt Bowen, NFL writer: San Francisco 49ers
Dan Graziano, national NFL writer: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mina Kimes, senior writer: Indianapolis Colts
Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Houston Texans
Aaron Schatz, editor-in-chief of Football Outsiders: San Francisco 49ers
Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer: Seattle Seahawks
Field Yates, NFL Insider: Houston Texans
Mike Reiss, ESPN Patriots reporter: Not in New England.
Way to go out on a limb, Reiss. (To be fair, he floated the New York Jets as a possibility in his brief explanation.)
For those scoring at home, that’s five different teams — six if you count Reiss’ wishy-washy response — listed as possible landing spots for Butler, who spent his first four seasons with the Patriots after going undrafted out of West Alabama in 2014. The 49ers and Texans were the only teams mentioned twice by the panel of experts, with both needing help at the cornerback position.
The variety of responses highlights the unpredictability surrounding Butler’s future. It long seemed possible — if not likely — he would leave New England after this past season, as the Patriots signed fellow cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a huge contract in free agency last offseason, but the Super Bowl benching seemingly punched Butler’s ticket out of town. It’ll be interesting to see not only where he ends up but also what kind of contract Butler is able to secure on the open market.
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