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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Patriots-Dolphins injury report: Tom Brady sits out with Achilles injury

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Patriots-Dolphins injury report: Tom Brady sits out with Achilles injury

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski both sat out of the entirety of Wednesday's practice at Gillette Stadium. 

Brady is dealing with an Achilles injury, per the injury report released by the Patriots. The Boston Herald has reported that Brady will play despite the issue. It's unclear when exactly Brady suffered the injury, but Brady was hit low by Raiders pass-rusher Khalil Mack in the fourth quarter on Sunday, and Mack was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty.

Gronkowski, like teammate David Andrews, is dealing with an illness. Patrick Chung, who left Sunday's game briefly, has an ankle issue. 

Here's the full injury report for both the Patriots and Dolphins . . . 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
C David Andrews (illness)
QB Tom Brady (Achilles)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle)
S Patrick Chung (ankle)
TE Rob Gronkowski (illness)
WR Chris Hogan (shoulder)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
WR Danny Amendola (knee)
TE Marellus Bennett (shoulder/hamstring)
DT Malcom Brown (ankle)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)

MIAMI DOLPHINS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
LB Stephone Anthony (quadriceps)
G Jermon Bushrod (foot)
QB Jay Cutler (concussion)
DE William Hayes (back)
T Laremy Tunsill (illness)

FULL PARTICIPATION
RB Senorise Perry (knee)
S Michael Thomas (knee)

 

Curran: Randy Moss better not have to wait for Hall call

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Curran: Randy Moss better not have to wait for Hall call

If you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer. The notion that a great player’s candidacy has to have some kind of gestation period before it can be deemed induction-worthy is just plain cruel.

And if you think “cruel” is an overstatement, consider Ken Stabler. Three times a Hall of Fame finalist, Snake had to croak before Pro Football Hall of Fame voters decided it was time to put him in Canton.

There are borderline guys whose candidacies need to marinate. There are players whose contributions to an era take on greater meaning as time passes. You could make the case Stabler was one of those.

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You could also make the case that too many HOF voters in each of the major sports get caught up in a “guardian at the gate” mentality, puffing out birdlike chests until they align with swollen stomachs and declaring an athlete’s not getting inducted on HIS watch.

Or until said athlete’s served time in purgatory and either begs for induction or says, “F--- it, I don’t care if I get in at this point anyway.

Which brings me to Terrell Owens and how his HOF candidacy will impact Randy Moss.

Moss was a better player than T.O. Historic. The second he entered the league in 1998, he was probably one of the five best players in the league at any position. Owens took a while. He didn’t make a Pro Bowl until his fifth NFL season.

Moss was a technician and a savant. Owens just wrestled the game to the ground with brute force.

When measuring what a player “means” to the NFL and its fans, a reasonable Moss comp is Allen Iverson. They were iconic. Owens? Dwight Howard. Where T.O. felt needy, desperate and narcissistic. Moss just didn’t GAF.

And that’s where some voters start to rub their hands together and scheme.

How can we exact revenge for perceived crimes against football and propriety? Make 'em sweat. Use incidents, moments and comments as cudgels and pound penance out of them.

Even though Moss was better than T.O., that doesn’t mean Owens is borderline. Owens is second in all-time yards (Moss is third), eighth in receptions (Moss is 15th), third in touchdowns (Moss is second) and was a five-time All-Pro (Moss was a four-time All-Pro).

The only justification for voters keeping T.O. out the past two years was that he was a prick.

Few – if any - of his ex-teammates say that he should be kept out of the HOF for that. But scores of people in the media, ex-players and league lobbyists do think he should be kept out. At least until he learns his lesson, or whatever.

Owens’ narcissism chewed at the fabric of franchises he was a part of, is the contention. That’s why he played for five teams. That’s why he only played in one Super Bowl. That’s why tears weren’t shed when he signed someplace else.

Moss also played for five teams. He also played in just one Super Bowl (like Owens, Moss’ ’07 Patriots lost though Moss – like Owens – did his part to win). And tears weren’t shed too often when Moss left either.

Check this Tom Brady quote from September 2010. It came just days before Moss began shooting his way out of New England because he was unhappy the team wouldn’t extend his deal.

"There's only one Randy Moss that will ever play this game," Brady said. "He's the greatest, probably, downfield receiver in the history of the NFL. Those catches that he makes, where you guys see he runs 65 yards down the field, you throw it and he just runs and catches it. That's impossible to do.And I ask him, 'How did you do that?' And he says, 'I don't know, man. I've been doing it for a long time.' He has some special skills that nobody's really gifted with." 

That weekend, Moss gave his “This probably will be my last year here as a Patriot…” press conference after a season-opening win over the Bengals. The next week, he caught two of 10 passes that Brady threw his way in a loss to the Jets. One of the passes was a touchdown pass where he blew past Darrelle Revis and made a one-handed pull. Two of the other passes were picked off and Moss was non-competitive. After that, he was effectively frozen out of the offense and was traded after Week 4, less than a month after Brady accurately described him as the greatest downfield receiver in the history of the NFL.

Stuff like that, nudging a traffic cop for a half-block with his car stating “I’ll play when I want to play…,” fake-mooning the Lambeau Stadium crowd, saying he still smoked weed “once in a blue moon” – all those occasions will be aggregated and used as cudgels used to beat down Moss’ candidacy just as the driveway situps are used to beat down T.O.’s.

Whole bunch of voters will hand-wring about what it all meeeaaaannnnnsssss if they sweep Moss in on the first ballot after keeping T.O. out. And then wonder if T.O. should go in before Moss, after Moss or with him. Meanwhile, they’ll rush to get Ray Lewis in line for his gold jacket with nary a word about disappearing white suits 

The whole “between the lines is all that matters” defense.

Randy Moss belongs in the Hall of Fame. ASAP.