Most of the top cornerbacks on the market have signed on the dotted line already. A.J. Bouye signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars for five years, $67.5 million with a $10 million signing bonus. Logan Ryan signed with the Tennessee Titans for three years, $30 million. The New England Patriots signed Stephon Gilmore to a five year, $65 million.
The pickings are slim elsewhere, with the options being Darrelle Revis, Tramon Williams, and restricted free agent, Malcolm Butler. The Patriots have signed Malcolm Butler to a tender that would cost any team that signs the Super Bowl hero to relay their 2017 first round pick to New England.
To sign Butler long-term, the Packers would have to pony up some serious coin. If Logan Ryan is worth $10 million, his former teammate is as well. Considering the Packers have lost T.J. Lang to the Detroit, Julius Peppers to Carolina, J.C. Tretter to Cleveland, with Eddy Lacy is still to be determined, The Packers probably won’t use all their $26.5 million in open cap space.
Malcolm Butler is the best remaining cornerback on the market, but is he worth the first-round pick and big contract? Well, the Packers have the 29th pick in the first round of the draft, where they’ll likely draft a defender. If Ted Thompson does draft a cornerback with the 29th pick, Packer fans can only reasonably expect an average level of contribution.
The rookie jitters of, ‘Do I really belong?’, affect certain positions worse than others. Cornerbacks need to play with the irrational confidence of J.R. Smith. I can hit this shot even if I’ve missed my last million. As we saw last season, when young corners are struggling, they are susceptible to double moves. The deeper the Packers made it into the playoffs, the longer their corners had struggled, the better chance the opposing team had to make them pay.
Malcolm Butler has the confidence to play the position. He’s only 5’11”, but he has the play making skills to take on the larger receivers of the NFL. He’s great at getting his hand into the arms of the receiver to make up for the size difference.
After reading the slant route and stealing the super bowl from the Seattle Seahawks, he’s never looked back. He brought down four interceptions last season, which was good for 11th in the league. He’s one of the better coverage corners in the NFL. If he were signed to the Green Bay roster, he’d easily be their number one corner.
Another potential upside to Butler in green and gold is his leadership. The Packers have such a young cornerback core, who could really use a mentor. Butler has succeeded in the most strict atmosphere in the league on his way to two super bowl rings.
Avoiding developing another young defensive back on the fly could be worth the 29th pick in the draft. Malcolm Butler brought down four interceptions last season, and is one of the better coverage corners in the NFL. If he were signed to the Green Bay roster, he’d easily be their number one corner.
Without a real cover threat, it’s hard to expect Nick Perry or Clay Matthews to find the time required to put pressure on the opposing quarterback. Obviously, Nick Perry did a good job last season, recording 11.0 sacks. But with a big contract extension, he’ll surely face more attention from the opponent’s game plan.
Acquiring Malcolm Butler would be a bold move for the Packers, but trading the first-round pick for a talented cornerback, who they can likely sign to an extension, could be the difference maker in their pursuit for their second championship under Mike McCarthy. That’s absolutely worth a late first round pick.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a likely deal for the Packers. It goes against everything Ted Thompson seems to believe, but it is one of the few options left to make a big difference for next season. Malcolm Butler is an unrestricted free agent next offseason, and will probably warrant more attention, making it more difficult for the Packers to sign him. It may be the time to strike, regardless of the draft pick implications.