If Malcolm Butler wants to get paid what he feels he's worth, he'll have to find a club willing to either a) sign him to an offer sheet and give up a first-round pick, or b) trade for him and give him a long-term extension.
According to our Mike Giardi, that's exactly what he's is trying to do at the moment.
Source tells me Butler & his camp remain extremely frustrated by Pats position & Gilmore signing. Courting offers elsewhere. Wants new home— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) March 13, 2017
The reason a new home might be hard to find? Whatever team draws up an offer sheet for Butler won't only have to be ready to give him a lucrative long-term contract, but it will also have to be prepared to part with one of its most prized possessions: a first-round pick.
The Patriots tendered Butler, a restricted free agent, at the highest level prior to the start of the new league year. That means that if Butler signs the tender -- which he has yet to do -- and plays for the Patriots, he'll make $3.91 million next year. If he signs an offer sheet with another club, that club will have to hand New England its first-rounder.
It's a steep price for any team to pay, but a player of Butler's caliber rarely hits the restricted free agent market. For clubs at the bottom of the first round that believe they're one Pro Bowl-level corner away from competing for a Lombardi Trophy, giving up the opportunity to draft a more cost-effective player in exchange for the ready-made pro may make sense.
The Patriots reportedly considered the idea of trading Butler to the Saints last week in return for receiver Brandin Cooks. But because Butler was not under contract -- because he has not signed his tender -- he could not be traded. The Patriots, you may have heard, found another way to get their man.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports sent out a mini Twitter blast on Sunday night as it related to Butler's situation. Two nuggets of note...
1) The Patriots would be "cool with" picking up a first-rounder if Butler finds the offer sheet he's looking for. This seems logical because while Butler is a very, very good corner -- arguably one of the five best at his position last season -- the team protected itself from losing him in some ways when it signed Stephon Gilmore to a five-year free-agent deal. They have a No. 1 guy -- or someone who projects as, and is being paid as, a No. 1 guy -- on the roster. What they don't have is a first or second-round pick. Getting into that range in the draft may be a priority for Bill Belichick and his front office, and Butler could be their ticket to get there. Of course, if there is no offer sheet, the Patriots probably would be more than happy to run onto the field with a one-two punch at corner of Butler and Gilmore.
2) Butler is telling teams he wants a Gilmore-type deal. From Butler's perspective, this makes sense. He considers himself at Gilmore's level or better, and so the $40 million guaranteed that Gilmore received is could very well be his asking price. From the league's perspective, though, it might be difficult to rationalize giving Butler that kind of money at the moment. As a restricted free agent who will cost a team its first-round pick, his price tag is through the roof. Paying him near the very top of the market for corners, Gilmore-level, and giving up a first-rounder in a deep cornerback draft may be prohibitive for anyone in need of help at that position. This may be why Butler's agent is courting offers as opposed to being courted.