Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler is reportedly aiming for a new contract prior to the 2016 season, but as Joel Corry of CBSSports.com details (Twitter links: 1, 2, 3, 4), Butler might not have a leg to stand on in negotiations. As a former undrafted free agent, Butler isn’t in line to reach unrestricted free agency until after the 2017 season — rather, he’ll only be a restricted free agent in 2017, in line for a first-round tender at a tad under $4MM. Linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, however, will be UFAs next March, and are thus likely to be higher priorities. The best-case scenario for Butler, per Corry, might be a contract in line with Bengals linebacker — and fellow former UDFA — Vontaze Burfict, who sacrificed two unrestricted years at market value while tacitly accepting that he would be hit with a restricted tender.
Let’s take a look at more news and notes from around the NFL on this Memorial Day weekend…
- Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt missed the entire 2015 season after tearing his Achilles, but he’s doing well in his recovery, as he explains to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. Loadholt, who also missed the tail end of the 2014 campaign after tearing his pectoral, agreed to a paycut this offseason, reducing his base salary from $6MM to $2.25MM (with another $1.25MM available through incentives). None of that money is guaranteed, however, so if Loadholt loses out to free agent signee Andre Smith in Minnesota’s right tackle battle, it’s possible that he gets released. The Vikings have one of the more interesting offensive line situations in the league, with Matt Kalil, Brandon Fusco, John Sullivan, Alex Boone, Mike Harris, Joe Berger, and T.J. Clemmings joining Loadholt and Smith, ensuring that the club has plenty of depth.
- More on the Vikings, as Ben Goessling of ESPN.com answers several questions in his latest mailbag, including one on a scenario involving wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. If Patterson were to post a decent season, thriving in both the passing game and on special teams, he’d make for an interesting extension candidate, granted that he was interested in remaining in Minnesota. Of course, as Goessling notes, the entire scenario is merely hypothetical, and Patterson doesn’t seem likely to break out in his fourth NFL season, especially given the addition of Laquon Treadwell in the first round.
- After agreeing to a one-year extension that locks him up through the 2016 season, Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth says he’s not worried about playing out the final year of his deal. “If I go into the season pretty much with the thought that I’ll be a free agent I think that the reality for me is that I wouldn’t think about it again until they brought it up,” Whitworth told Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Whitworth also said that he’s open to shifting to guard later in his career, a move that he made briefly in 2014 (with great success). The Bengals drafted tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in the first two rounds of the 2015 draft, so Whitworth’s future at tackle might be limited, at least in Cincinnati.