Patriots Free Agent Reset: How New England Should Handle Adam Butler

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Nineteen New England Patriots players are set to hit free agency when the NFL league year opens March 18. As that date approaches, we?re taking a closer look at each one. Up next: defensive tackle Adam Butler.

2019 STATS: six sacks (including two half sacks), QB hit, 17 hurries, 26 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five batted passes

LIKELIHOOD OF RETURN: High

ANALYSIS: Butler came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2017, so he’s hitting restricted free agency this offseason.

The Patriots can place a first-round, second-round or original-round tender on Butler. Since Butler was a free agent, the original-round tender would be a right of first refusal. They must make a decision by March 18 at 4 p.m. They also could reach a long-term contract with Butler.

If the Patriots place a first-round tender on Butler, another team signs him to an offer sheet and the Patriots refuse to match, then that team would have to give up a first-round pick to acquire Butler. That would be the same with a second-round tender, except replace the first-round pick with a second-round pick.

If the Patriots sign Butler to an original-round tender, another team signs him to an offer sheet and the Patriots refuse to match, that team would simply acquire Butler without compensation.

Here were the salaries for restricted free agents in 2019:

  • For right of first refusal only, a one-year salary of at least $2,025,000.
  • For right of first refusal and compensation at the player?s original draft round, a one-year salary of at least $2,025,000 or 110 percent of the 2018 Paragraph 5 salary, whichever is greater.
  • For right of first refusal and compensation of one second-round draft selection, a one-year salary of at least $3,095,000 or 110 percent of the 2018 Paragraph 5 salary, whichever is greater.
  • For right of first refusal and compensation of one first-round draft selection, a one-year salary of at least $4,407,000 or 110 percent of the 2018 Paragraph 5 salary, whichever is greater.

Those numbers will be slightly higher in 2020.

The Patriots will either tag Butler with an original-round tender or a second-round tender if they can’t reach a long-term deal. If the Patriots don’t mind potentially losing Butler, then they’ll use the original-round tender to keep him around at a lower salary in 2020. If they essentially want to guarantee keeping Butler for 2020, then they’ll use the second-round tender.

Our best guess is the Patriots will use the second-round tender on Butler. He’s still an improving player, and he essentially shared defensive line snaps with Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton. Guy finished the 2019 season with 523 snaps to Shelton’s 492 and Butler’s 473. Butler was the Patriots’ top interior pass-rushing option. At 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, though, he also has the ability to defend the run.

As a starting-caliber defender, bringing Butler back at a little over $3 million seems fair with a rising salary cap. Shelton is also a free agent and could command a higher salary on the open market after a strong 2019 campaign.

While the Patriots would probably prefer to pay Butler just over $2 million on an original-round tender, the chances are too great they could lose him for nothing. Butler has been a key cog in the middle of the Patriots’ defense, and it’s not as if they have a large reserve of big defensive linemen.

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