Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler is one of 17 New England players that did not participate in this week’s voluntary OTAs, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com suggests that Butler’s absence is contract-related. Per Reiss, Butler has told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, as he is slated to earn just $600K this year before being eligible for restricted free agency prior to the 2017 campaign. Butler’s agent, Derek Simpson, did not return Reiss’ calls or emails seeking comment.
However, because of his low price tag this year, and the fact that New England can probably control him fairly inexpensively for 2017 with a RFA tender, the team holds the leverage at the moment. Plus, as Reiss points out, linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower are eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2016 season, and the Patriots may view new deals for them as more of a priority for the time being.
All three players, though, are deserving of lucrative extensions, and the dilemma that their contract status has created is one of the reasons New England traded Chandler Jones–who is also set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end–earlier this year. Butler’s absence from OTAs is the one way he can signal to the club that he is unhappy with his present deal, but it may not result in a new contract for him this season. If he performs in 2016 the way he performed in 2015, though, he will get his big payday sooner rather than later.
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