Patriots

Patriots

A source with knowledge of conversations between the Patriots and Malcolm Butler tells me contract-extension talks were "brief," and the number he was offered during the season didn't change much once the season was over.

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The Pats are certainly not cap-strapped. They have around $55 million to spend after locking up James Develin to a modest deal. With all this cash, it was easy to think Bill Belichick and company would prioritize getting contracts done with unrestricted free agent Dont’a Hightower and Butler, a restricted free agent.

Instead, the Pats placed a first-round tender on Butler and are letting Hightower gauge his value on the open market. Past history says the Hightower strategy can work. (See Devin McCourty after the 2014 Super Bowl.) But Butler is in water that has rarely been treaded -- Logan Mankins sat out the first eight weeks of the 2010 season after the team tendered him a contract as a restricted free agent -- and when you consider his displeasure with not having any extension or raise given following the 2015-16 season (which I have reported on since last spring), might there be a situation brewing in Foxboro? 

Butler was forced to sit out a week of OTAs in the spring of 2015 but since then has been the model citizen, never missing a day without team permission. He was a top-10 cornerback that year and arguably a top-5 player this past season. Will he be bold enough to sit out and demand a new deal or trade? Or will a team swoop in and make an offer and force the Pats to either match or let Butler walk for a first-round pick in this draft? Tune in to find out.