The free-agent market is taking shape after the franchise-tag deadline. While the number of top safeties in the open market will be limited this offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars will have their fair share of choices when it comes to the cornerback market, which includes Malcolm Butler.
The Tennessee Titans informed Butler he’s been released, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. After going undrafted in 2014, the West Alabama product signed with the New England Patriots and gained notoriety in his rookie year when he made a game-sealing interception that guaranteed the Pats’ victory in Super Bowl 49. He got the spotlight once again for his non-appearance in Super Bowl 52.
Butler made the Pro Bowl in 2015 and signed a five-year $61.25 million contract with the Tennessee Titans in 2018. Over his seven-year career, Butler has registered 406 total tackles (nine for a loss) 17 interceptions, 82 passes defensed and five forced fumbles.
The Titans’ defense ranked 31st in passing touchdowns allowed and Butler was on the wrong end of five of them. However, he might’ve stayed in Tennessee in 2021 had his $14.2 million cap number been lower. The corner was solid in 2020, posting a 71.6 Pro Football Focus overall grade, his highest since 2017. Nevertheless, his performance wasn’t on par with the kind of salary he was set to make in 2021.
Should the Jacksonville Jaguars sign Malcolm Butler or pass up?
Butler wasn’t the only Titans player that struggled last season and he may benefit from a change of scenery. However, he’s not a top-tier cornerback, and paying him like one would be a mistake. The Jaguars will have around $67.5 million in cap space, so they could easily agree to his salary demands. On the other hand, just because they can pay Butler top-market money doesn’t mean they should. The team’s brass would be better off looking at how the cornerback market unfolds and target Butler only if he’s available at an affordable rate.
If anything, there will be more variety of slot cornerbacks available in the open market, and the Jaguars could get a better return on their investment by signing a slot cornerback instead of Butler.