Of all the potential landing spots for Malcolm Butler, this would be the most fascinating.
The Detroit Lions are “quite interested” in the New England Patriots cornerback as the start of NFL free agency approaches, Mike Giardi of NBC Sports Boston reported Monday.
Who’s now in charge in Detroit? That, of course, would be Matt Patricia, Butler’s defensive coordinator during his four years in New England.
Butler’s 2017 season — and, almost certainly, his Patriots tenure — ended in bafflingly disappointing fashion when head coach Bill Belichick benched him for Super Bowl LII. After starting all but one game at cornerback over the previous three seasons, Butler played just one snap on special teams and zero on defense in New England’s 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Grilled about the decision in his postgame news conference, Patricia offered only vague references to defensive “packages” the Patriots had in place for the game. He declined to discuss the situation when asked again at the NFL Scouting Combine but did say he has great respect for Butler.
“I would characterize my relationship with Malcolm as extremely strong,” said Patricia, who was hired as head coach of the Lions one day after the Super Bowl. “I love Malcolm a lot. He’s like — like all of my players — like one of my sons. I make sure that he does everything to the best, and I hope for the best for him. And that’s really all I’m going to say about Malcolm.”
It’s unclear whether the benching changed the way Butler feels about Patricia, but he had nothing but high praise for the coach during Super Bowl week.
“One day, he just came up to me and said, ‘You know I love you, right?’ ” Butler said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I believe it.’ Because I love him, too.”
Other teams that have been linked to Butler include the Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints. Free agency officially opens at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
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