By Danny Emerman (Online Editor-in-Chief).
It is so dumb to get worried in March as a Patriots fan. Bill Belichick has proved, time and time again, that his roster entering training camp will have the necessary talent to walk through the AFC East and compete for another Super Bowl title.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Patriots are signing Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore, a top free-agent. Ensuing rumors are swirling around Foxboro centered around Malcolm Butler, the team’s best defensive back who is now a restricted free agent.
Many sources have reported that New England is considering trading Butler for New Orleans Saints receiver Brandin Cooks.
Trading an elite cornerback for a B+ receiver is unwise, but the circumstances may force Belichick to let the two-time Super Bowl champion leave. As an RFA, Butler is likely demanding about $14 million per year, while the Pats will be paying Gilmore the same amount.
New England has a few options: re-sign Butler long term, let him walk for nothing, or trade him.
Any other team wouldn’t think twice when their star cornerback, who made one of the most iconic plays in franchise history, is up for a new contract. The Patriots are different. Bill Belichick doesn’t make decisions based on emotions or past performance; he solely makes moves on value and how a player can help the team the next year.
The most likely scenario is probably a trade. The Patriots are not typically a team to break the bank on two defensive players at the same position. They also think their young defensive backs, Eric Rowe and Cyrus Jones can pick up the slack, so they won’t risk losing Butler for nothing.
But the best choice is to re-sign Butler. While they run the risk of losing him for nothing, the Pats should urge Butler to take a pay cut and resign him.
Butler’s value to the Patriots’ defense is monumental, and a secondary with Gilmore and Butler would be especially stout. With Brady under center, the offense will be fine; use the offseason to beef up the D.
If the Patriots don’t think they can negotiate a deal, they should trade Butler, but please, don’t trade him for Brandin Cooks. As evidenced by literally every Super Bowl the Patriots have won, they do not need a traditional “deep threat” #1 wideout like Cooks.
Still, whatever the Pats decide to do, it is irresponsible to panic. It’s March. Trust Belichick. He’s earned it.