The Patriots didn’t trade cornerback Malcolm Butler to the Saints. But that doesn’t mean Butler will be a member of the Patriots in 2017.
Mike Giardi of CSN New England reports that Butler is “extremely frustrated” by the team’s refusal to sign him to a long-term deal and their decision to give big money to cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Butler is, per Giardi, “courting offers elsewhere” and “wants [a] new home.”
That’s fine, but any team that signs Butler to an offer sheet will be required to give up a first-round pick if/when the Patriots choose not to match it. Which means that he likely won’t be signed to an offer sheet.
Before Butler would sign an offer sheet, he’d need an offer sheet that he wants to sign. As recently noted here, Butler apparently wants to be paid like an unrestricted free agent, not like a guy who is still one year away from unrestricted free agency. To get a long-term deal now, Butler would get less than Gilmore, A.J. Bouye, or any other free agent makes it to the open market without limitation or restriction.
If/when a team and Butler determine based on discussions that currently are permitted regarding an offer sheet that they can find a middle ground, Butler’s potential new team could try to trade for him, giving up something less than a first-round pick.
Even then, the fact that Butler’s new team would have to give up anything to get him necessarily would make the new team even less likely to give Butler market value.
And so it very well may be that Butler will spend one more year with the Patriots at $3.91 million, leaving as an unrestricted free agent in 2018, and getting market value. Assuming he finishes the year healthy and effective.