Patriots

Why Patriots chose not to trade Malcolm Butler

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Why Patriots chose not to trade Malcolm Butler

The trade deadline came and went on Tuesday afternoon, and Malcolm Butler remained on the Patriots roster. With Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco, Butler was the team's most tradable asset . . . yet the ever-aggressive Patriots decided that he would stay put. 

Butler fit the profile of the kind of player the Patriots have shown in recent seasons that they're willing to move: Pro Bowl-level talent, final year of his deal, looking for a big contract.

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Why, then, is Butler still in the fold? Why didn't the Patriots get something -- a pick, a player, both -- for him in a trade? Particularly if there's a chance they lose him at the end of the season and get only a compensatory pick in return?

Here are three reasons why the 27-year-old corner might still be in the mix...

1) It takes two, baby. Even if the Patriots tried to move Butler, they needed a trade partner who a) wanted him and b) was willing to give something of value for what was only guaranteed to be eight or nine regular-season games of Butler's services. Perhaps he was considered too expensive a rental, a player whose heart is set on hitting the open market. Perhaps his age played a role. Perhaps his play this season, which waned to the point that he was taken out of the starting lineup back in September, spooked potential suitors. That's if the Patriots were looking to deal. Which brings us to No. 2. 

2) Butler may have been deemed too good to let go. He had what might have been his best game in Week 7 against the Falcons, and maybe the Patriots are starting to see his play trend toward what it was in 2015 and 2016. Plus if teams around the league are looking at inactive players or players who've seen their playing time decrease -- as Bill Belichick noted in a recent conference call -- Butler doesn't exactly fit that profile. He's missed just four snaps in the last six weeks. There's also the element that the Patriots pass defense has been reeling all season, and if they dealt Butler it would make a bad situation worse. And that's looking at the situation in a vacuum. Now consider how the rest of the cornerback position looks in New England, and . . . 

3) There's very little depth to lean on at corner. Johnson Bademosi has played well in emergency action against the Jets, Falcons and Lions. And Jonathan Jones seems to be around the football quite a bit (one pick, one pass breakup versus the Chargers) when called upon to play in the secondary. Outside of that pair, there's little in the way of support for Butler at the moment. Stephon Gilmore hasn't played with Week 5 as he deals with concussion and ankle issues. Even when he has played, it's been clear he's still getting things figured out in the Patriots defense. Then there's Eric Rowe, who bumped Butler from the starting lineup in Week 2 but has had a nagging groin injury that has taken him off the field. Rowe has been doing some light running as part of his rehab, but his injury may be significant enough that it needs to be managed for much of the season. If the Patriots dealt Butler, they'd be down their best and most experienced cover man at the moment.

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Young, talented safeties available for Patriots entering 2018

Young, talented safeties available for Patriots entering 2018

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent at that spot, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today, we put the safety position in focus keeping in mind that this is one position that’s morphing as quickly as any in the NFL.

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HOW THEY PERFORMED


Fine. OK. Pretty good sometimes. But certainly nothing that can be confused with dynamic. In a league stocked with playmaking safeties. They are in the right place and – aside from Jordan Richards - are sure tacklers. They communicate well. They get the concepts of the defense and do their bit on special teams. But the safety group combined for six picks and four of those came from Duron Harmon. Patrick Chung was murder on tight ends in coverage but the third-down performances in some of the team’s biggest games was abysmal. The Steelers and Eagles were both 10 for 16 on third down and the Jags were 4 for 6 in the first half of the AFCCG. Devin McCourty played with an injured shoulder down the stretch that has since been surgically repaired but he just didn’t have a lot of impact plays in 2017. Richards, after three seasons in the league, has a handful of nice tackles as a box safety. Other than that, he’s got a very long way to go in a very short amount of time to approach the level of play expected from a second-round pick. 

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018?
Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Devin McCourty, David Jones, Damarius Travis

WHO ISN'T?
Nate Ebner

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED?


Not dire at all. But looming. McCourty is signed through 2019 and has a $13.4M cap hit next season when he’ll be 31. Chung is 30 and entering the last year of his deal. Harmon is signed through 2020 and is just 27. Unless the team thinks Richards is the heir apparent to Chung – which would be alarming – they need to get back in the draft pool to find someone at what I believe is one of the NFL’s most important positions. The team puts so much on both Chung and McCourty that it will take years for a new player to gain the depth of knowledge and nuance at the spot. And then there’s the versatility and kicking game expectations they deal with. Whether its in the draft or in free agency, spending needs to be done. But for this year, the need is a 5.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY


This is a position stocked with talented young players. Here are some of them: Green Bay’s Morgan Burnett, the Rams’ LaMarcus Joyner, Kenny Vaccaro from the Saints, San Fran’s Eric Reid and Tre Boston from the Chargers. Vaccaro’s coming off an injury. Burnett and Joyner are both going to be high-cost options. Reid is already anticipating some teams steering clear of him because of his outspoken support for Colin Kaepernick.  Further down the free agent chain are players like Boston who was outstanding in 2017. Reid, Vaccaro and Boston are players the Patriots could target. Boston is the youngest and healthiest of the group and already theorizes that he will probably move on from the Chargers.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT?


Alabama has a pair of safeties who’ll be coveted, the first being Minkah Fitzpatrick who is a top-10 prospect. The other is Ronnie Harrison. Stuck in between those two as a top-20 prospect is Derwin James from Florida State. The reason I could see the Patriots taking a safety in the first two rounds is because the right one can address myriad needs – coverage at the linebacker level, run-support and playmaking. Stanford’s Justin Reid (6-1, 204 pounds) and Va. Tech’s Terrell Edmunds (6-2, 220) are bookends to the type of safety builds the Patriots could use. 

HOW CAN THE PATRIOTS CAN ADDRESS IT?


Make a run at Tre Boston. If the price is too high, settle on Edmunds or Reid.

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Report: Bortles receives 3 year, $54m contract extension

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Report: Bortles receives 3 year, $54m contract extension

The Jaguars had plenty of talent last season, especially on defense.

But question marks remained due to some of their offensive players.

Could Blake Bortles play well enough to support the strong play of the Jacksonville defense?

He delivered this past season and helped bring the team to the AFC Championship. 

Now he will be in Jacksonville for several years to come.

According to a report from NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, Bortles and the Jags have agreed to a new 3-year contract worth $54m. 

Adam Schefter of ESPN confirmed the extension, adding that Bortles can earn up to $66.5m with incentives. The contract includes $26.5m guaranteed. 

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