The Patriots have quite a few quality players who will become free agents at the end of the 2016 season if they do not reach contract extensions before then. Many of those key performers are on the defensive side of the ball with starters Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Jabaal Sheard, Malcolm Butler and Rob Ninkovich representing just a handful of the potential free agents.
Earlier this week ESPNBoston.com had an item indicating that Butler was telling friends and teammates that he "plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season." The report speculated that it was possible the contract was a reason that Butler was among the 17 Patriots not seen on the field last week when the media was allowed to watch an OTA workout in Foxborough.
Subsequent reports indicated that Butler was happy and intended to be with the team at OTAs, and with just two years of service under his belt the corner's options are limited. The rules of the CBA say any exclusive rights free agent must report to his team within 30 days of the regular season in order to be eligible to earn an accrued season, which for Butler would be vital in order for him to reach restricted free agent status.
So, the idea of a hold out in camp would seem far-fetched. But that doesn't mean the Butler situation isn't worth monitoring. The Patriots clearly don't need to address it at this point, but an argument could be made that it may be wise to do so. By extending Butler before the season it's certainly plausible that the Patriots could save money on a long-term deal that could potentially be much higher if he hits the restricted free agent market coming off a second Pro Bowl season.
Therefore, this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Should the Patriots extend Malcolm Butler's contract before the season?
PFW's Andy Hart says...
We saw what happened with Deion Branch. He left and played for the Seahawks. We saw what happened to Asante Samuel. He left and played for the Eagles. I want Butler playing for the Patriots.
Ever since the young corner arrived as an undrafted rookie two years ago he's shown the confidence and toughness to make plays. He's done everything the hard way and now it's time to reward him for that work ethic and offer him a contract extension.
By signing him now you eliminate a possible distraction and more importantly you take away the chance for another team to dictate how you pay him moving forward. Waiting for someone to sign him to an offer sheet might force the Patriots to extend themselves further that they'd like, and there's no need to take that chance.
Sign Butler now... he's earned it.
PFW's Paul Perillo says...
You can't just give extensions to everyone coming off a good season and expect to maintain a balanced roster. Butler is certainly deserving of more money, and if he continues to perform he'll get it soon. But at this point I don't see the urgency to sign him coming off one Pro Bowl season.
Butler is a great story and I have no doubt that his work ethic will allow him to continue to improve as he gains more experience. Once the season is over, assuming he has another solid year, then the Patriots should go after him hard to keep him off the restricted free agent market. But until then there's no need to rush.
Having quality players on rookie contracts is a big part of success in all sports. The Seahawks blossomed with a number of such players like Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson in recent seasons. The Patriots will have to pay him in others before long.
Until then, having Butler fight through another year making the minimum won't be the end of the world.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.