Titans went for Malcolm Butler over Trumaine Johnson

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Two of the top cornerbacks in the 2018 free-agency class agreed to terms on Tuesday afternoon/evening, with the decision of the Titans to chase and land Malcolm Butler providing plenty of additional intrigue to one of the biggest lingering questions from Super Bowl LII.

The Titans, per a source with knowledge of the situation, did not make a run at Trumaine Johnson, who has agreed to terms with the Jets. While Johnson’s deals is believed to be richer (roughly $15 million per year versus $12.1 million for Butler), the ballpark is sufficiently similar to put both guys in the “real money” category.

Given G.M. Jon Robinson’s and coach Mike Vrabel‘s ties to New England, the decision to give an eight-figure-per-year deal to Butler suggests that the did their due diligence as it relates to the inexplicable failure of Patriots coach Bill Belichick to give Butler a start in the eventual loss to the Eagles — and the apparently stubborn refusal to put Butler on the field when the defense without him wasn’t slowing down the Philadelphia offense.

While the move isn’t as eyebrow-raising as it would have been if the Lions, now coached by former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, had signed Butler, there’s enough connective tissue between Robinson/Vrabel and the Patriots to make it clear that the Titans wouldn’t have made that investment without fully exploring the question of why Butler was on the field to start Super Bowl LII, and why Belichick didn’t choose to insert him as part of the extended halftime adjustment period.