It appears as though Malcolm Butler has no plans of playing in New England next season on the first-round tender, worth $3.91 million.
He's scheduled to visit the Saints on Thursday -- and there may be other trips coming -- in the hopes of receiving a lucrative long-term offer sheet. Even if he doesn't receive an offer sheet, he can negotiate the terms of a deal and then hope to be traded.
He wants to be paid, and why wouldn't he?
But for a player in his position, there are worse things than playing for a shade under $4 million. In fact there are well-established players who came into the league at the same time Butler did, in 2014, who wish they were about to see the pay day that Butler will get if he plays on the tender.
The $3.91 million one-year salary alone will pay Butler more than Pro Bowl receivers Jarvis Landry and Allen Robinson (both second-round picks) will make over the course of their four-year careers through 2017. It's more than Jimmy Garoppolo and Kony Ealy (also second-rounders) will receive for their four years of service.
If he plays on the tender, Butler's four-year earnings of $5.44 million will exceed those of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who was taken at the top of the second round in 2014 at No. 36 overall.
Not bad for someone who never heard his name called on draft weekend three years ago.
Of course Butler's road to get to more than $5 million in earnings was not nearly as smooth as it was for someone like Carr. The corner's salaries in the first three years of his career were $420,000, $510,000 and $600,000. None of it was guaranteed. Carr was gifted a signing bonus of $2.23 million and was guaranteed $3.31 million, according to Spotrac.
Butler has certainly out-played his contract to this point -- the argument could be made that he's a better player than any of the Class of '14 players listed above. And if he was irked by the Patriots signing Stephon Gilmore to a contract that will pay $13 million annually, that's understandable. He's human.
But there are plenty of players who have outplayed their deals through three years who have had to wait one more for their big-money deals. It may not be fair, but in the NFL fairness is relative when it comes to player contracts.
As a restricted free agent, Butler at least has the benefit of combing the league for offer sheets. And even if he doesn't get one, he'll be playing for a one-year salary that many accomplished players from his class would covet.
It could be worse.