Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Gilmore Banks, Butler About To Break For "Greener" Pastures

When former Buffalo Bills' cornerback Stephon Gilmore signed a major free agent contract with the New England Patriots, the deal did more than just break the bank.

Precedence is one other thing that was broken, as the Patriots typically don't offer big money contracts to free agents on the open market - though when they do, it's usually for defensive backs.  Like back in 2014 when general manager and head ball coach Bill Belichick signed cornerback Darrelle Revis for an outragious sum - though it turns out that fellow corners Malcolm Butler and since-released Brandon Browner ultimately had a greater impact.
Heroics aside, Butler appears to be on his way out of New England

The declining Revis and his fat wallet were sent packing for New York after one season with a Super Bowl ring and the tarnished reputation as a hired gun, serving as a reminder that Belichick doesn't pay players for their past accomplishments - rather, he pays for players based on what he perceives their future production will be.

The Gilmore deal made the Pro Bowler the eighth-highest paid corner in the league at what is typically one of the most expensive positions in football, and the fourth-highest paid Patriots behind quarterback Tom Brady, left tackle Nate Solder and safety Devin McCourty, with both Brady and Solder the thirteenth-highest paid at their respective positions, and McCourty fifth.

So, Gilmore's numbers certainly aren't out of line, when speaking generally about the Patriots considering that they are paying exactly half of the players on their roster at least seven-digits, 17 of them on offense and 14 of them on defense - but the numbers are skewed towards the offense when considering highest paid at their positions, as right tackle Marcus Cannon (5th overall) and tight ends Rob Gronkowski (5th) and Dwayne Allen (10th) rank towards the top in the league at their positions...

...while beyond McCourty, only defensive tackle Alan Branch (17th) and defensive end Lawerence Guy (21st) rank in the upper-quarter of the league at their respective positions - so Gilmore's contract brings the disparity closer to center.

Still, there are deserving players that are due for pay increases that may see the Gilmore deal as a sign of disrespect for their own efforts - which is exactly the sort of thing that New England's fiscal philosophy is intended to prevent, and one of them is apparently disgruntled restricted free agent Malcolm Butler, whose agent has opened negotiations with the New Orleans Saints.

The Patriots had set a first-round tender on Butler before the start of the new league year, which meant that Butler was free to negotiate with any other team and collect offer sheets from them - the kicker being that if the Patriots declined to match the offer, the team that signed Butler to an offer sheet would have to relinquish their first-round draft pick to New England.

The tender also set Butler's 2017 salary to just shy of $4 million in guaranteed money if he remained with the Patriots - but Butler reportedly refused to sign the tender.

Butler has an argument.  His numbers are virtually the same as Gilmore's so far as passes defended, and earned Pro Football Focus's number two "shutdown" corner for the 2016 season, while Gilmore didn't crack the top 25 despite making the Pro Bowl.  Part of the reason for this was scheme, as Buffalo used plenty of zone coverages in their secondary with Gilmore (and Butler) much better at press man.

Originally linked to reports that he would be dealt along with a third-round draft pick to the Saints in the deal that brought Brandin Cooks to Foxborough, his refusal to sign the tender nixed him being included in the trade deal and the Patriots instead sent their first-round pick, 32nd overall, to the Saints.

Of course, the Patriots still own the rights to Butler, and if Butler's agent can work out an offer from New Orleans, two things could happen.  First, the Butler could sign his tender, accept the offer from New Orleans which the Patriots could then refuse and collect the Saints' original first found pick, which would be 11th overall...

...secondly, and more likely, the Patriots could rescind the tender and simply trade Butler to New Orleans, with the likely compensation being either shipping the #32 overall back to Foxborough, or a package deal which would include the Saints' second-rounder (42nd overall) and ship New England's original compensatory pick (109th overall) back to them.

Early on Tuesday, it has been reported that the Houston Texans are about to enter the fray for Butler, reportedly willing to offer up their second-round pick, which stands at #57 overall - but that seems low for what the Patriots could potentially get from the Saints.

Either way - and even though New England will have lost their top two cornerbacks from last season - the Patriots would be fine in the secondary as Gilmore would team with emerging third-year corner Eric Rowe to form a competitive and perhaps even better corps than they had in 2017 - with youngsters Justin Coleman, Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones in the mix for nickle back.

On the down side, the free agent cornerback market has been picked clean with only marginal talent still available - which means that the Patriots would likely be reduced to spending draft capital to bring in a rookie to compete for a nickle slot.

Of course, this is all just conjecture at this point, but it seems clear that Butler's days in New England are numbered - but his place in Patriots' lore will last forever.

No comments:

Post a Comment