Mike Reiss of ESPN.com believes the extension that Allen Hurns signed with the Jaguars a few days ago could serve as a useful blueprint for the Patriots in their efforts to deal with the contract situations of three of the club’s top defenders: Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, and Malcolm Butler. Collins and Hightower are eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2016 season, whereas Butler is set to become a restricted free agent.
Hurns, like Butler, came into the league as an undrafted free agent, and like Butler, he was set to make $600K in 2016 before becoming a RFA in March 2017. But as Reiss points out, the four-year, $40MM deal Hurns inked with the Jags was tacked on to the final year of his UDFA contract, so Hurns is now effectively playing under a five-year, $40.6MM pact, which sounds a lot more reasonable for a player who enjoyed a successful 2015 campaign but who does not have a long track record of success or an impressive draft pedigree. Such an arrangement would seem to make a great deal of sense for Butler in particular, though Reiss says that an extension for any of the Butler/Collins/Hightower trio would likely be similar in concept and would benefit both sides, as the player gets coveted financial security while the team stays ahead of a rising market by being willing to strike a deal a year early.
Now let’s take a look at more on the Patriots:
- In the same piece, Reiss says the Patriots did try to follow a similar contractual model with Devin McCourty as he entered the final year of his contract two seasons ago, but their offer was not enticing enough for McCourty. As a result, New England ended up having to pay McCourty at a market value that was higher than the club anticipated. Reiss therefore believes the Pats will be more proactive in their approach with their biggest free agents-to-be this time around.
- Karen Guregian of The Boston Herald echoes the sentiments put forth by former NFL agent Joey Corry last week, saying that Butler needs to understand his contract will take a backseat for the time being given that he will only become a RFA when the 2017 league year begins and can be retained for 2017 for a relatively modest $4MM or so. In addition to Collins and Hightower, Guregian also mentioned Jabaal Sheard as a pending unrestricted free agent whose contract the team may try to address before Butler’s.
- Christopher Price of WEEI.com offers an early 53-man roster projection for the Patriots.